Soldiers Accused of Murder and Drug Use
(FOXNEWS) Washington D.C. — As many as 10 soldiers from the Army’s Stryker brigade in southern Afghanistan are under investigation for the murder of three Afghan civilians and illicit drug use.
The soldiers, based out of the 5th Stryker Brigade in Fort Lewis, Washington, were accused of the crimes by at least one member of their own unit who witnessed the drug use and learned of the murders from another soldier.
According to defense officials familiar with the case, the soldier who informed his superiors of the drug use was later beaten badly by the men he accused. While recovering from his injuries, another member of his unit approached him to say that the abuse went far beyond drugs, and that these men were responsible for murdering innocent Afghan civilians.
Defense officials refused to name any of the soldiers involved because the investigation is ongoing.
The injured soldier reported the alleged crimes to his senior officers and subsequently the Army Criminal Investigation Command began its investigation. A statement from the U.S. military released last week said one of the accused soldiers is being held in pretrial confinement in Afghanistan. The Army would not give the location of the other 9 soldiers.
Along with the murders, the soldiers are being investigated on allegations of “illegal drug use, assault and conspiracy,” according to statement.
The Stryker brigade has had one of the bloodiest tours in Afghanistan, suffering a high rate of casualties in some of the country’s most violent regions. The unit has been assigned most recently to help to secure the southern city of Kandahar, considered to be one of the most critical operations of President Obama’s Afghanistan troop surge.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates visited the unit’s headquarters at forward operating base Frontenac on March 9th. He made a point to applaud them for their sacrifices in person.
“You came into an area that was totally controlled by the Taliban,” Gates said to about 200 soldiers at Frontenac. “You fought for critical battle space, you bled for it, and now you own it. And you demonstrated extraordinary courage and determination in making that happen.”
The Army Criminal Investigation Command said the investigation began after it received “credible information from the Soldiers’ unit earlier this month.” Official charges are expected to come within the next week.