Army admits to fatal 'mistake' at Afghan checkpoint
October 13, 2009 - 12:00AM
THE Australian Defence Force has conceded that it made a mistake when it said two Afghan policemen shot by Australian soldiers at a checkpoint were not wearing uniforms.
In August the ADF issued a statement saying one policeman was killed and another wounded when they did not respond to calls for them to stop their motorcycle at the road block north of the Australian base at Tarin Kowt.
The statement said the men were not wearing uniforms.
But yesterday the ABC's Lateline program broadcast an interview with Abdul Ghani, the father of the policeman who was killed, in which he said both men were wearing uniforms.
Mr Ghani, who is also a policeman, said he was considering joining the Taliban to seek his revenge.
Last night ADF chief Angus Houston said it was discovered after the media statement was released that one of the policemen was wearing a uniform shirt. That man was on the back of the motorcycle; the policeman on the front of the motorcycle was in civilian clothes.
An ADF investigation was under way to find a better way of operating checkpoints to avoid a repeat of the tragedy, Air Chief Marshal Houston said.
He said the two Afghan men approached the checkpoint at high speed and ignored calls to stop. The soldiers had only a split second to react.
Mr Ghani said the soldiers told him they were very sorry and the shooting was a mistake.
He said the soldiers believed they were being approached by suicide bombers. ''I don't accept the apology as he was wearing the uniform of the police.''
Mr Ghani said he believed he, too, might be killed.
''You have to understand they killed my son and they will kill me as well. I am scared. I was a friend of the Australians. This is a huge loss of face in front of the Taliban. The Taliban say 'the Australians will shoot you as well'. Now we have to go and join them.''
Air Chief Marshal Houston said the ADF had apologised to the dead policeman's family and that in line with local tradition Mr Ghani had been given an ''honour payment'' of $1700.
The family was clearly not satisfied, Air Chief Marshal Houston said, and it was very regrettable that the father was considering joining the Taliban.
Air Chief Marshal Houston said changes had already been made to the way the ADF operated.