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Report Into April 2 2009 Incident Concluded

Inquiry Officer Report Into April 2 2009 Incident Concluded

Defence has concluded its inquiry into an incident in which three Afghan men were killed during a building clearance operation on the evening of the 2nd of April, 2009 in Oruzgan Province.

The Inquiry Officer determined that the Australian soldiers acted lawfully, in self-defence, when the three men were killed.

The Chief of Joint Operations, Lieutenant General Mark Evans, ordered an Inquiry Officer to investigate subsequent information that the men were civilians.

The inquiry confirmed that during operations against senior Taliban insurgents in Oruzgan Province, a combined Afghan National Security Force and Special Operations Task Group (SOTG) element targeted a house and buildings that were believed to be occupied by an insurgent commander and Taliban supporters.

The clearance operation resulted in the detention of eight Afghans and the deaths of three others. The detainees were later released.

The Inquiry Officer concluded that while the final identities of the deceased are unlikely to ever be known with certainty, on the balance of probability they were likely to have been associates of the senior insurgent leader and acted in a manner consistent with taking a direct part in hostilities.

Additionally, he reported that the behaviour of the individuals was reasonably interpreted by SOTG members as hostile and that the appropriate Rules of Engagement were followed by SOTG members, who engaged the individuals in self-defence.

Furthermore, he concluded that the mission was planned appropriately, the required approvals for its execution were obtained and the mission itself was rehearsed and well executed.

The Inquiry Officer recommended that no conduct warranted further investigation and that no changes were necessary to the methodology for assessing the risk of civilian casualties in operations of this kind and that current tactics, techniques and procedures were adequate.

He also noted that the presence and disposition of civilians is always taken into account during the planning phase of operations and during the training prior to each mission.

Lieutenant General Evans has now closed the inquiry process.

ENDS

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