18 October 2012
During the autumn of 2012, the SAS conducted numerous armed raids against suspect Taliban members’ homes across the Afghan province of Helmand. Seven years later, the Sunday Times, reporting the suspected cover-up of a man and three boys who had been shot dead in their home, noted that individuals were often targeted ‘as a result of sketchy intelligence from local warlords, who may have been using the army to settle scores with rivals.’1 Many were shot dead after they had supposedly resisted arrest.
On the evening of 18 October 2012, Fazel Mohammed, a 20 year old shopkeeper, was at his home in a small compound in the village of Loy Bagh, sitting on the floor of the guest room and drinking tea. Alongside him sat his 17 year old brother Naik, a cotton farmer and two boys, Mohammed Tayeb, 14, and Ahmad Shah, 12. Sometime before midnight an SAS team silently entered the small compound. One SAS soldier went to check the guestroom. According to the Sunday Times ‘he barged through the hanging cloth on the doorway’ and had ‘no hesitation’ in opening fire, discharging 5.56 mm bullets which passed through the heads and bodies of the victims before impacting the wall at a low level.2 The ballistic evidence contradicted the soldier’s later assertion that he had only fired defensively and that two of the victims had been holding rifles by the window, while the other two suddenly emerged from the shadows.
Initially, the British Army denied SAS involvement, but this position became untenable when it was demonstrated that the calibre of the bullets only matched those used by British troops. After some preliminary investigations, the Royal Military Police (RMP) interviewed the soldier and concluded that they were not prepared to accept his account. They referred both the soldier and the high ranking SAS officer in charge of the mission to the public prosecutor. However, the service prosecutor informed the family two years later that there ‘was insufficient evidence,’ explaining that this did not imply that they believed the soldier’s account. The Ministry of Defence were more categorical, falsely claiming to the Sunday Times that ‘the RMP has found no evidence of criminal behaviour by the armed forces in Afghanistan.’ The paper requested the former Director of Public Prosecutions, Lord Ken Macdonald, to examine that evidence. He concluded that he had ‘very grave suspicions about the case,’ adding ‘it’s a sort of case that one would expect to see advanced further.’3
- George Arbuthnott, Jonathan Calvert and David Collins, ‘As they drank tea, the boys were shot in the head – and blood filled their cups,’ The Sunday Times, 17 November 2019, p. 9.
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