War in Afghanistan

Seven British marines arrested over a killing in Afghanistan last year

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 13 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 13 October, 2012, 4:19am

Seven Royal Marines have been arrested on suspicion of murder after one of their colleagues came forward and claimed an insurgent had been killed in a manner that broke the British military's strict rules of engagement.

The incident happened in Afghanistan's Helmand province last year, but it is thought investigators only began an inquiry in recent weeks when a "code of silence" among the marines was broken by one of those said to have witnessed the alleged crime.

The seven marines were arrested on Thursday by military police and the inquiry will now be undertaken by the Ministry of Defence's service-justice system, which was specifically set up to allow the investigation in Britain of personnel who may have committed an offence overseas.

The ministry said it could not give details about the ongoing inquiry. But the disclosure is a blow to the Royal Marines, who are regarded as being among the elite of the armed forces and are the pride of the Royal Navy.

The Royal Marines were in Helmand last year between April and September as part of 3 Commando Brigade, which was led by Brigadier Ed Davis. They were operating in the districts of Nahr-e Saraj and Nad Ali, where scores of British troops have died since 2006.

The ministry would not say when the incident took place or where, but confirmed that it was alleged to have happened during a skirmish with insurgents.

It stressed that the alleged killing involved a combatant, not a civilian. This suggests the accused men are being investigated for behaviour after the insurgent was already in their custody.