[JURIST] The US Department of Defense [official website] announced [press release] on Thursday that US Forces-Afghanistan has launched an investigation into allegations that a "small number" of soldiers are responsible for the unlawful deaths of three civilians in Afghanistan. The Army's Criminal Investigation Command [official website] began the investigation earlier this month after receiving credible information from the soldiers' unit. No charges have yet been filed against the soldiers suspected in the unlawful deaths, but one soldier has been placed in "pre-trial confinement." The probe also includes investigation into allegations of illegal drug use, assault and conspiracy.
Collateral damage has been a major issue in both the Afghanistan and Iraq [JURIST news archives] wars. Last month, a military appeals court reversed the conviction [JURIST report] of US Marine Sgt. Lawrence Hutchins III for the 2006 killing of an Iraqi civilian, citing lack of a fair trial. Hutchins was serving an 11-year sentence, reduced from 15 years [JURIST report], for his role in the April 2006 kidnapping and murder of Iraqi civilian Hashim Ibrahim Awad in Hamdania [USMC materials; JURIST news archive]. He was convicted [JURIST report] in 2007 of murder, conspiracy to commit murder, making a false official statement, and larceny. Six Marines pleaded guilty [JURIST report] to charges related to their roles in the incident, which involved Awad being removed from his residence and killed, then arranged with a shovel and firearm to appear as if he were planting an improvised explosive device.