Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 21 October 2014

Servicemen 'pose with dead Taliban'

Photograph from the Live Leak website taken by members of No. 51 Squadron RAF Regiment of the aftermath of the Taliban attack on Camp Bastion.

Graphic pictures which appear to show at least one UK serviceman posing with a dead Taliban fighter have been leaked online.

The Ministry of Defence said military police have launched an investigation into the photographs, which were taken after an attack by insurgents on Camp Bastion in 2012.

Two RAF Regiment members were withdrawn from frontline duties after the images were posted on website Live Leak in April.

They show some of the damage caused during the attack on the UK's main base in Afghanistan in September 2012, which left two US marines dead.

In two of the pictures at least one and possibly two purported members of the RAF Regiment can be seen kneeling next to the body of a dead insurgent and giving the thumbs up.

A number of British personnel were injured in the attack and six US Harrier jets were destroyed.

An RAF spokeswoman said: "Inappropriate actions will not be tolerated in the armed forces - the RAF is treating this incident extremely seriously and has launched a military police investigation.

"As this incident is subject to an ongoing investigation it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time."

The RAF Regiment is the ground fighting force of the Royal Air Force.

Members of No 51 Squadron RAF Regiment, together with US Marine service personnel and civilian security contractors, defeated the attackers after a four-hour firefight with support from helicopters in what came to be known as the Battle of Bastion.

Last month a report by MPs said British commanders had to "bear a degree of responsibility" for failing to prevent the 2012 raid.

Prince Harry was serving at the base as a member of the Army Air Corps during the time of the attack.

The squadron is currently based at RAF Lossiemouth in Moray.

Colonel Richard Kemp, who commanded British forces in Afghanistan in 2006, said he did not condone the soldiers' actions but suggested they may have been feeling an "understandable joy" at seeing their enemy dead after a furious battle.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "Although I certainly wouldn't condone this sort of behaviour, the photographs were taken in the immediate aftermath of a very, very devastating Taliban attack.

"To us here in the UK two years later it seems disturbing but when you remember these soldiers had been under threat of their lives, they fought quite a furious battle with the Taliban and I suspect what we see here is a sense of elation that they are still alive at the end of it and also an understandable joy at seeing that their enemy who were trying to kill them a short time before are no longer alive."

Colonel Kemp said the a rmed forces do not allow personnel to "show disrespect for the dead of their enemy" and rules also forbid any close up photographs of dead enemy fighters. Soldiers in Camp Bastion were not allowed to have cameras or phones, he added.

He said that the Taliban would probably try to exploit the photographs for propaganda purposes but suggested the incident would "go over many people's heads" in Afghanistan.

He added: "I don't think it will cause huge outrage there because I don't think our enemies are going to be particularly concerned about this. If they are it is not going to affect the ferocity with which they continue to try to attack us anyway."

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