Wednesday 21 March 2018

Scottish soldier 'sliced off fingers of dead Taliban' as souvenirs

Simon Johnson

The British Army is investigating allegations that a Scottish solider sliced off the fingers of dead Taliban fighters as "souvenirs", officials have confirmed.

The Royal Military Police’s Special Investigation Branch (SIB) has started the inquiry, which is understood to involve a soldier from the The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, 5th Battalion, The Royal Regiment of Scotland.

It was reported today that he is accused of removing fingers from enemy corpses in Afghanistan’s Helmand province during the regiment’s last tour of duty, between September 2010 and April this year.

The allegations are particularly damaging in the local propaganda war against the Taliban as Muslim tradition dictates that the dead must be buried with all their body parts.

“There is a rumour that he may have wanted to keep them as souvenirs, which is macabre in the extreme,” a military source told a tabloid newspaper.

“These allegations have rocked the battalion. That said they are being kept very hush hush for obvious reasons. The Afghanistan tour was his first one and it’s possible the stresses of that made him do these horrible things.”

The source said the accusations emerged after the regiment returned from their tour of duty in the spring and the soldier was interviewed by the SIB.

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: "This is a very serious allegation and it would be wrong for us to comment. An investigation is ongoing."

The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, known as 5 Scots, took over as Britain’s lead presence in Helmand Province as part of 16 Air Assault Brigade, along with the Royal Higland Fusiliers, 2nd Battalion, The Royal Regiment of Scotland.

It was the Argylls’ second tour of the country and they took over the running of the Helmand Police Training Centre, where 4,000 recruits are put through intensive eight-week courses.

They also conducted hundreds of routine patrols, unearthing roadside bombs and capturing Taliban targets.

Clive Fairweather, a former SAS commander and honorary colonel of the Argylls’ Cadet Force, said he was “baffled and shocked” by the accusations.

“Throughout training it is drummed into soldiers that they must treat enemy dead with the same respect they treat their own dead,” he said.

“In all my time with the Army, both with Scottish soldiers and with the SAS, I have never heard of anything like this happening. Taking trophies from dead combatants is a sure fire way to provoke anger in the local population.”

Willie Rennie, the Scottish Liberal Democrat leader, said: “If these sickening acts were the result of severe military trauma, then the army needs to act quickly to ensure that others are not suffering in this way.”

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