Sons not killed by 'friendly fire,' parents insist

Parents of two Canadian soldiers killed in Afghanistan are insisting it was the Taliban that killed their sons, and not "friendly fire."

Parents of two Canadian soldiers killed in Afghanistan are insisting it was the Taliban that killed their sons, and not "friendly fire."

A leaked U.S. report that emerged on the WikiLeaks website suggested that four Canadian soldiers who died on Sept. 3, 2006, in the Panjwaii district of Afghanistan were killed when a U.S. jet dropped a bomb on a building they occupied during the second day of Operation MEDUSA.

The Canadian military has rejected that report, and says the four members of the Forces died in combat with insurgents.

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

Barry Mellish of Truro, N.S., said he has spoken to more than 20 eyewitnesses who described how shrapnel from Taliban fire killed his son. 

"I've been told by his friends who were there in the battle what had happened, who witnessed it, as well as the man, the sergeant major, who was standing right beside him when he was killed, told me what happened," Mellish said.

"And I have no reason to doubt what they said to me," Mellish added. "The military has nothing to gain by covering it up."

On July 25, WikiLeaks published nearly 77,000 U.S. documents, revealing new details about the war in Afghanistan, including the relationship of the Pakistani intelligence service with Afghan insurgents. The documents were written by soldiers and intelligence officers.

Mellish said he is angry how the Canadian media has covered the leak of the documents, adding that the friendly fire stories have caused needless pain to his family.

Mellish is also worried that the publishing of the U.S. war logs may endanger Canadian soldiers still in Afghanistan.

Canada in the war logs

Search our database of WikiLeaks documents with Canadian references.

Avril Stachnick of Waskatenau, Alta., said she too has spoken to soldiers who told her that her son was struck in the neck by fragments from a rocket-propelled grenade.

Hearing of the WikiLeaks version of events immediately sparked new grief, she said.

"I was really upset, because I know that's not how it happened," she said. "And to bring it up four years later is just opening new wounds. And it hurts. It hurts big time."

On Tuesday, Rick Hillier, who was Canada's chief of the defence staff when the four soldiers died, said the Canadian military had an entire battle group in the area at the time and "knew very clearly what was going on."

"We were certain, based on the enormous number of soldiers and sailors and airmen and airwomen that we had in that fight, what occurred that day," Hillier said.