Military rejects WikiLeaks friendly fire report

The Canadian military is rejecting a report released by WikiLeaks that suggests four Canadian soldiers who died in September 2006 in Afghanistan were killed by friendly fire from U.S. forces.

The Canadian military is rejecting a report released by WikiLeaks that suggests four Canadian soldiers who died in September 2006 in Afghanistan were killed by friendly fire from U.S. forces.

The military maintains the four soldiers died in combat with the Taliban.

WikiLeaks report

The report says that at 4:14 GMT on Sept. 3, 2006, fire, including rocket-propelled grenades, was coming from a building in Afghanistan. Fire was returned and a bomb was dropped on the building, heavily damaging it to the point that only four sections were left standing. The incident is categorized as so-called "friendly fire" or "blue-on-blue," which means coalition forces inadvertently attacked their own forces. The report states that four Canadians were killed, seven other Canadians were wounded and an interpreter was also wounded.

The Canada military has always maintained the soldiers died in combat with the Taliban:

"The loss of four Canadian soldiers on September 3rd, 2006, was the result of insurgent activity in the Panjwaii district of Afghanistan," the defence minister's spokesman Jay Paxton said in an email Monday evening.

"The only friendly fire incident from the time period in question occurred on September 4th, 2006, when Private Mark Anthony Graham was killed in the same district."

The friendly fire allegation occurred in a report that was among more than 91,000 documents released Sunday revealing new details about the war in Afghanistan and describing numerous accounts of brutality, corruption, extortion and kidnapping by members of the Afghan police force.

According to an incident report filed by the U.S. military unit, 205TH RCAG (Regional Corps Advisory Group), four Canadian soldiers were killed and seven others and an interpreter were wounded on Sept. 3, 2006, when a jet dropped a bomb on a building they occupied during the second day of Operation MEDUSA.

The Canadian military reported at the time that the four soldiers died in battles with Taliban forces.

The military's Maple Leaf newsletter also said on Sept. 13, 2006, that "four soldiers were killed September 3 during Operation MEDUSA, a significant combined effort between the Afghan National Security Forces, Canada and other NATO partners in the International Security Assistance Force as they fought to drive Taliban fighters from a region west of Kandahar City."

Killed were Warrant Officer Richard Nolan of Newfoundland, Warrant Officer Frank Mellish of P.E.I. and Nova Scotia, Sgt. Shane Stachnik of Alberta and Pte. William Cushley of Ontario.

What is WikiLeaks?

WikiLeaks, a non-profit website, is responsible for publishing the Afghanistan war logs, the largest leak in U.S. military history since the release of the so-called Pentagon Papers in 1971 revealed U.S. government information about the Vietnam War.

Read our FAQ on WikiLeaks to find out more.

"These officers died in an ongoing effort to force Taliban insurgents from a region West of Kandahar City so that displaced villagers can return to their homes and re-establish their livelihoods without living in constant fear," then defence minister Gordon O'Connor said in the Maple Leaf story.

On Monday, Michel Drapeau, a former colonel with the Canadian Forces, said the WikiLeaks document is disturbing, because it differs from the information provided by the military at the time of the soldiers' deaths.

"There's a wide discrepancy, and we need to know," Drapeau told As It Happens on Monday night. "One of the reports has to be accurate," he said.

The veracity of the WikiLeaks document hasn't been determined, and Drapeau acknowledged that the incident report could be wrong and not corrected.

The Canadian military says it has not been misleading about Canadian deaths.

"At all times, the Canadian Forces have been open and forthright with the families of our fallen soldiers and the Canadian public about the circumstances relating to deaths in Afghanistan," Paxton said.

One of the soldiers' mothers said she believes the military. 

"The vehicle that he was in was hit by an RPG — that's a rocket-propelled grenade — and some of the shrapnel from it hit the turret and some of the shrapnel from the turret hit him in the neck. He bled to death," Avril Stachnik told The Canadian Press in an interview in Waskatenau, Alta.

"One of Shane's best friends was with him at the time and that's what he told me as well," she said.

The U.S. Pentagon would not comment on the leaked documents, including the friendly fire report.