Prime Minister Julia Gillard says legal support will be provided to three former commandos charged over the deaths of five children in Afghanistan last year.


One of the commandos has been charged with manslaughter, another with not following orders, while a third will be charged when he returns from overseas.

Ms Gillard would not comment on the charges but said the soldiers would be given assistance.

“The accused will be offered legal support,” Ms Gillard told reporters in Canberra.

The Director of Military Prosecutions announced the charges following an investigation into a night-time raid on February 12, 2009, that left five children dead as well as two children and two adults wounded.

One suspected insurgent was also killed in the firefight.

Australian forces have now been in Afghanistan for nine years in response to the al-Qaeda-led attacks on the United States of September 11, 2001.

Two of the soldiers, known only as A and B, have vowed to fight the charges.

A and B attacked the media for the “many cases” of inaccurate reporting of the clearance operations.

“Words will never adequately express our regret that women and children were killed and injured during the incident on 12 February 2009,” the pair said in a statement issued on Monday through the law firm Kennedys.

“These were people we were risking our lives to protect.”

The soldiers put blame for the deaths firmly at the feet of the enemy.

“It should not be forgotten that the casualties were ultimately caused by the callous and reckless act of an insurgent who chose to repeatedly fire upon us at extreme close range from within a room he knew contained women and children.”

This story was backed by a defence statement issued at the time which talked of close fire from Taliban insurgents as the commandos cleared buildings.

Director Lyn McDade said her investigations had only been recently completed and had been “careful, deliberate and informed”.

“The accused persons will be charged with various service offences, including manslaughter, dangerous conduct, failing to comply with a lawful general order and prejudicial conduct,” Brigadier McDade said in a statement.

Soldiers A and B said when the full facts of the battle became public, their decision would be vindicated.

“It will be clear to everyone that we made the correct decision under truly awful circumstances,” their statement said.