An Afghan soldier who shot dead four French troops has said he did it because of a recent video showing US Marines urinating on the dead bodies of Taliban insurgents, security sources told AFP.

"/> An Afghan soldier who shot dead four French troops has said he did it because of a recent video showing US Marines urinating on the dead bodies of Taliban insurgents, security sources told AFP.

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AFGHANISTAN

Afghan soldier ‘killed French troops over US abuse video’

An Afghan soldier who shot dead four French troops has said he did it because of a recent video showing US Marines urinating on the dead bodies of Taliban insurgents, security sources told AFP.

The attack on the soldiers, who were unarmed, came on Friday at a base in eastern Afghanistan and left 15 other French troops wounded, eight of them seriously.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy reacted angrily, threatening to pull his forces out of Afghanistan ahead of the 2014 deadline for all US-led coalition combat troops, and dispatched Defence Minister Gerard Longuet to Kabul.

That started a round of claim and counter claim over who was responsible for the attack, with Longuet saying he was told the killer was a Taliban infiltrator in the ranks of the Afghan army.

The Taliban, usually quick to claim coalition deaths, said they were still investigating and suggested some of the many attacks by Afghan soldiers on their foreign counterparts were prompted by anger towards the “invading enemy”.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai, in a statement after a meeting with Longuet, failed to echo his accusation against the Taliban and also played down the idea of Afghan resentment of foreign troops.

“The attack against French forces by an Afghan army soldier does not represent the anger of Afghan people but it is just an isolated and individual action,” he said.

The story emerging from the interrogation of the soldier arrested for the killings — named as 21-year-old Abdul Mansour — would support Karzai’s interpretation.

“During the initial interrogations by French soldiers, he told them he did it because of the video in which American soldiers were urinating on bodies,” an Afghan army officer told AFP.

That report was backed by an intelligence source and another with access to information from the Afghan ministry of defence, both of whom requested anonymity.

The intelligence source said the soldier told interrogators he had no direct contacts with the Taliban.

The Afghan soldier had also referred to a video showing British soldiers allegedly abusing Afghan children, the ministry of defence source said.

Less than a week after news of the US Marines video broke, British military police arrested two servicemen over allegations that they abused an Afghan boy and a girl, both aged about 10, and filmed the incidents.

The US video, posted online this month, showed four US soldiers urinating on three bloodied corpses, and one of the men, apparently aware he was being filmed, saying: “Have a great day, buddy,” referring to one of the dead.

The images conjured up previous abuses committed by US troops during the decade-long war against Taliban insurgents and top US officials scrambled to condemn the soldiers.

Told that AFP was about to run reports of the Afghan soldier’s alleged confession, a spokesman for the US embassy in Kabul, Gavin Sundwall, said: “Our deepest condolences go out to France and the families of the soldiers who lost their lives in this tragic incident.”

The actions in the video “violate the core values of both our societies”, he added.

The bodies of the four French soldiers were flown back to Paris late on Sunday, accompanied by French Defence Minister Gerard Longuet.

Sarkozy sent his defence minister to Afghanistan after the attack to evaluate ways to improve the security of the French troops who are training up the Afghan army.

A spokesperson for the British embassy in Kabul said an investigation into the allegations against the British troops was under way and therefore the embassy could not comment on the Afghan soldier’s claim.

The US, Britain and France are the main contributors to the coalition forces of some 130,000 troops who have been fighting a 10-year insurgency by hardline Islamist Taliban forces ousted from power after the 9/11 attacks in the US.


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ARMY

French army officers convicted after recruit died during initial ritual

A French court on Thursday gave suspended jail terms to three soldiers convicted over the death by drowning of a trainee officer during an initiation ritual at the country's most prestigious military academy.

French army officers convicted after recruit died during initial ritual
The three officers in the dock. Photo: AFP

Jallal Hami, 24, drowned overnight on October 29th, 2012, while crossing a swamp as part of an exercise meant to teach the Saint-Cyr officer school's traditions to new recruits.

A total of seven soldiers, including a general, were tried for manslaughter.

A court in Rennes, a city in France's western Brittany region near the Saint-Cyr academy, sentenced an army captain, a commanding officer and a soldier who has since left the military to suspended terms of between six and eight months.

Four other defendants, including the general who was in charge of training at Saint-Cyr at the time, were cleared of the charges.

Hami's brother Rachid, who had accused the second-year students behind the hazing ritual of running amok, reacted angrily to the verdict.

“You have betrayed my brother once again,” he said.

The victim's brother Rachid Hami, speaking outside the court. Photo: AFP

On the night of Hami's death, new recruits were told to swim across a swamp for 43 metres, weighed down by their helmets in 9C water.

The exercise was meant to simulate a beach landing.

To the strains of Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries – famously used in the war movie Apocalypse Now – the recruits jumped into the cold water. Several quickly struggled and went under, gasping for air and clutching at others.

Organisers threw them lifebelts to help them out but it was too late for Jallal Hami, who was reported missing.

Firefighters, alerted an hour later, found his body at 2:35 am near the bank of the swamp.

During the trial the state prosecutor blasted the “madness” of an initiation ritual fuelled by “uncontrolled testosterone” and asked the court to give six of the defendants suspended terms of up to two years.

The prosecutor had however called for General Francis Chanson's acquittal.

Chanson's lawyer William Pineau had said that while the events were “tragic”, his client could not be held criminally responsible “because he did not know what really went on on the ground”.

Jallal Hami came to France in 1992 with his mother and brothers to escape Algeria's civil war.

Hami had for years dreamed of being admitted to Saint-Cyr, which was founded in 1802 by Napoleon Bonaparte.

His qualifications – Hami had earned a diploma from elite university Sciences Po, studied Mandarin and excelled at sports – allowed him to enter the officer school directly as a third-year trainee.

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