Five British Royal Marines have been charged with murder in relation to an “engagement with an insurgent” in Helmand, where the majority of Britain’s 9,500 troops in Afghanistan are currently deployed.
The five marines are among nine who were originally arrested, four of which were released without charge, reports Al Jazeera. The country’s defense ministry stated that the marines were charged with murder “in relation to an incident which is alleged to have taken place in Afghanistan in 2011.”
The defense ministry added that there were no civilians involved in the incident. A ministry spokesman stated on Sunday that the five British Marines “have now been charged with murder and they remain in custody pending court proceedings.”
Philip Hammond, the defense secretary, stated, “Everybody serving in theatre knows the rules of engagement.” Hammond added that “any abuse will be dealt with.”
The spokesman added:
“The Royal Military police has referred the cases of the remaining five Royal Marines to the independent Service Prosecuting Authority. Following direction from the SPA these marines have now been charged with murder and they remain in custody pending court proceedings. It would be inappropriate to comment further on this ongoing investigation.”
According to the BBC, the British Marines were arrested by the Royal Military Police after suspicions video footage was discovered on a serviceman’s laptop by civilian UK police.
It is the first documented time that UK servicemen were arrested and charged with murder for an incident involving the Afghanistan conflict.
The Service Prosecuting Authority (SPA), which is an independent body that conducts prosecutions for the military, ultimately decided the five marines should face murder charges for the incident. Colonel Richard Kemp, who is a former commander of British forces in Afghanistan, stated:
“The case against the troops concerned needs to be set out quickly because there’s no question that these kind of allegations will undermine the morale of troops serving in Afghanistan today.”
The five British Marines who are charged with murder will soon face a court martial to determine if they are guilty, and also what punishment they will receive.