In a '"tragic case of mistaken identity," Kurdish Peshmerga fighters shot and killed Canadian Sgt. Andrew Doiron in Iraq in March, a series of Canadian military investigations has concluded.
His death was also linked to a "breakdown in communication in a setting characterized by tension, fatigue and confusion" the report says.
Doiron, originally from Moncton, N.B., was shot by Kurdish fighters as his special forces unit was returning to an observation post in the darkness. Three other Canadians were wounded in the incident. Three separate investigations looked at the March 6 incident.
- Sgt. Andrew Doiron's death likely due to Kurdish fighter fatigue, general says
- Doiron's colleagues held fire when Kurds turned guns on them
- Soldier's death a 'mistake' but won't harm relations with Kurds, general says
- Doiron a casualty of ISIS's 'fluid' front lines
Brig.-Gen. Mike Rouleau said that Doiron's detachment had been at that same location, at the request of Kurdish forces, earlier that day. But there had been a shift change, and the Kurdish replacement soldiers were not informed that Doiron's team would be returning later that night, the report found.
The report says the Canadian team followed "all pre-established procedures and that they had conducted their operations appropriately and in concert with all pre-approved and accepted protocols."
As well, the identification procedures used by Doiron and his detachment were proper. But it noted that the "complexities of conducting a link-up with other forces during the night is a complicated task due to the difficulties in accurately identifying and visually distinguishing friendly forces in very low light conditions as experienced on that night."
Concerned about ISIS attack
The Kurdish forces, unaware of the planned visit, were legitimately concerned about a potential attack by ISIS, similar to one that had occurred the night before, Rouleau said.
The report found that it is reasonable to believe that "they would have perceived any movement, regardless of the nature, to be life-threatening. This is what is believed to have motivated the members of the final Kurdish position to engage."
"This was a tragic case of mistaken identity," Rouleau said.
The investigation also found that no Arabic was spoken by Doiron's team on the approach to the final position that night.
Rouleau outlined the events leading up to the shooting. He said that as Doiron's team approached the Kurdish soldiers that night, they met up with a pack of wild barking dogs, increasing the already tense atmosphere. As they continued forward, a Kurdish soldier on a rooftop about 60 metres away from the patrol saw Doiron's detachment, Rouleau said.
Doiron used the proper greeting or code words but received no response, Rouleau said. The Kurdish soldier cocked his weapon, prompting Doiron to immediately raise his voice in English announcing his presence as a Canadian patrol.
However, the Kurdish soldier fired at Doiron, wounding him. Another Kurdish soldier began firing a machine gun at the three other members of Doiron's patrol, forcing them to take cover, Rouleau said. The three others tried to help Doiron, but were fired upon at every attempt. They were eventually all wounded by small arms fire.
The Canadian Special Operation Forces Command operator was able to stop the shooting and all four were evacuated from the area. But Doiron later died of his wounds.
The first Kurdish shooter clearly saw Doiron and his detachment, Rouleau said. But under severe stress, "he was looking at Canadians, but he saw what he thought was an ISIS infiltration and an attack on his position."
Rouleau said Doiron's detachment made no mistakes and performed very well before, during and after the shooting.
Doiron is the only Canadian soldier to be killed so far as part of Canada's military effort in Iraq, which began last fall.
Gen. Tom Lawson, Canada's chief of the defence staff, had hinted that investigations into the death cleared Canadian soldiers of responsibility and blamed fatigued Kurdish soldiers.