A former commando says three charged soldiers are unlikely to be guilty.
A former commando says three charged soldiers are unlikely to be guilty. BRETT WORTMAN

Soldier defends charged trio

A MAROOCHYDORE-based former special forces soldier leapt to the defence yesterday of the three Australian commandos charged over a botched night raid in Afghanistan, saying it is “very unlikely” the men are guilty.

Private B, as the former soldier wants to be known, was a member of the crack No.1 Commando Regiment – the same regiment the three soldiers facing court martial over the deaths of six Afghan civilians belong to.

Five of the casualties were children. The charges the soldiers face include manslaughter.

While Private B did not serve in Afghanistan, he said talk among serving members of the regiment indicated the men were innocent and he was confident they would be exonerated.

“The motto of this fine regiment is ‘strike swiftly' which, from all accounts, they did when acting to defeat the Taliban, ensuring their actions saved not only their own lives but also that of civilians,” he said.

“I have served with these men (No.1 Commando Regiment soldiers), who are among Australia's finest soldiers.”

Private B, who wanted his identity protected due to the possibility of him one day reapplying to join the regiment, declined to say if he thought the men were being used as scapegoats.

However, a Sydney newspaper reported yesterday that friends and colleagues of two of the charged soldiers believed the men were being “roasted” because they were reservists.

Private B said special forces members lived by an ethos that comprised several core values, including integrity and honesty.

As such, he said it was “very disappointing” that the integrity of the regiment had been called into question.

“I just believe, having served in that unit, that it would be highly unlikely that they would have acted outside their training, given the calibre of person who serves in these units,” he said.

“They wouldn't do it deliberately.

“I doubt it was carelessness. If you're being shot at, I doubt you would be careless.”

Australia's top military prosecutor laid charges over a deadly raid in February last year.

Two of the charged men are believed to be Melbourne-based soldiers seconded to the Sydney-based regiment.

The other soldier facing charges is a lieutenant colonel now overseas.

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