French families sue over troop deaths in Afghanistan

30th October 2009, Comments 0 comments

The families of two French soldiers killed in a Taliban ambush in Afghanistan are planning to sue officials for putting the men's lives in danger, their lawyer announced.

PARIS - "We suspect the existence of a series of failures in the chain of command," Gilbert Collard told Le Parisien newspaper. He told AFP that he would file the suit next Monday in a military court in Paris.

The suit targets "individuals who did not... assume their responsibility, who were not able to handle the mission they were meant to carry out."

The complaint does not name the people involved -- French law allows plaintiffs to accuse unnamed persons -- and it will be up to investigating magistrates to decide whether or not individuals should face trial.

Collard is representing the parents of Julien Le Pahun and the ex-wife of Rodolphe Penon.

The two soldiers were killed along with eight of their colleagues in a district east of the Afghan capital Kabul in August 2008.

Earlier this month The Times of London newspaper said the troops died because they were not told that Italy, whose troops were in charge of the area previously, had been secretly paying the Taliban not to attack.

The Times said that because the French were unaware of the bribes before taking responsibility for the area from the Italians they made a "catastrophically incorrect threat assessment" of the area.

French troops were relatively lightly armed and had insufficient air cover when they were ambushed by 170 heavily armed insurgents, the report said.

The French had been in charge of the area for just a month when the 10 soldiers were killed in one of the biggest single losses of life for NATO forces in Afghanistan.

French Defence Minister Herve Morin has rejected The Times' report, saying there was "no reason to doubt the word of the Italian government," which has denied paying bribes to the Taliban.


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