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Soldiers did not unlawfully shoot unarmed Afghan: Natynczyk

Chief of the Defence Staff General Walter Natynczyk appears before the Commons defence committee on Tuesday, December 8, 2009.

After two days of probing, Canada's top soldier is outright rejecting one of several troubling allegations levelled by a former military interpreter this week -- saying his troops did not unlawfully shoot an unarmed Afghan.

Ahmadshah Malgarai told a Commons committee on April 14 that Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan deliberately handed over detainees to torture and also once shot an unarmed Afghan in the back of the head.

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In a letter sent to the same Commons committee last night, Chief of the Defence Staff General Walt Natynczyk rebutted the charge that his soldiers erred in killing the man.

If this allegation were true it would mean soldiers violated the rules of engagement and the military covered up the incident.

But Gen. Natynczyk said the incident did not happen as the ex-interpreter alleges, saying details of the event "are very well documented."

He said the man was armed and posed a direct threat to a Canadian military operation in June, 2007.

Mr. Malgarai, whose military code name was "Pasha," is an Afghan-Canadian who served as an interpreter to the Canadian Forces for one year ending in June 2008.

The interpreter told MPs on Wednesday that the shooting incident took place after the Canadian Forces raided a compound.

Gen. Natynczyk said it occurred during a Canadian-led attack on the night of June 18 and the morning of June 19 on a compound linked to bomb-making insurgents.

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"The compound was suspected to be a staging area for rocket attacks against Kandahar airfield as well as [bomb]attacks against Canadian and coalition soldiers," he wrote to Afghanistan committee chair Kevin Sorenson.

"During the mission an armed individual posed a direct and imminent threat to Canadian Forces soldiers as they entered the compound," the general wrote.

"A shooter who was providing support to the operation identified the individual and assessed that he was a threat and shot the individual," he said.

"The acts of the shooter were an appropriate application of the rules of engagement and saved the lives of a number of Canadian Forces members that night."

The military is nevertheless refusing to release records of the matter, saying they contain "sensitive information about tactics, techniques and procedures."

The acts of the shooter were an appropriate application of the rules of engagement and saved the lives of a number of Canadian Forces members that night. Chief of the Defence Staff General Walt Natynczyk

The general said 10 detainees were captured and taken to Kandahar airfield for questioning before being transferred to the Afghans. He said nine tested positive for explosive residue.

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"I trust that this information gives you a clearer picture of what actually happened on the ground that evening in June 2007," he said.

Gen. Natynczyk wrote that two detainees captured in the operation alleged during questioning that coalition forces had planted a pistol on the insurgent who was shot. "It is worth noting that one of the two individuals later retracted his allegation," the general said.

He said the military is still reviewing Mr. Malgarai's other allegations. The most disturbing is that soldiers knowingly sent prisoners to torture at the hands of Afghanistan's notorious intelligence service, the National Directorate of Security.

"I saw Canadian military intelligence sending detainees to the NDS when the detainees did not tell them what they expected to hear," Mr. Malgarai told MPs on April 14.

"If the [Canadian]interrogator thought a detainee was lying, the military sent him to NDS for more questions, Afghan style. Translation: abuse and torture."

Effectively, Mr. Malgarai told MPs Wednesday, "the military used the NDS as subcontractors for abuse and torture."

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About the Author
Parliamentary reporter

Steven Chase has covered federal politics in Ottawa for The Globe since mid-2001, arriving there a few months before 9/11. He previously worked in the paper's Vancouver and Calgary bureaus. Prior to that, he reported on Alberta politics for the Calgary Herald and the Calgary Sun, and on national issues for Alberta Report. More

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