Soldiers ordered not to shoot Taliban as they plant mines... 'because it WAKES UP locals'By Daily Mail Reporter
Last updated at 2:52 PM on 18th July 2011
Soldiers were ordered not to open fire on Taliban fighters planting mines in case they disturb local people, it has been claimed.
U.S. military chiefs ordered troops to exercise 'courageous constraint' and even warned them they could be charged with murder if they shot any Taliban without permission from above.
The claims were made by a former Royal Marine who spoke out following the inquest into the death of Sergeant Peter Rayner last week.
Don't shoot: A former marine says troops were warned they could be charged with murder if they shot Taliban, pictured, without permission from above
At the hearing in Bradford, his widow Wendy Rayner revealed how her husband was blown up days after senior officers had apparently 'laughed off' his complaints that insurgents were being allowed to plant explosive devices unchallenged.
The 34-year-old phoned his wife in a ‘highly stressed’ state four days before his death and was upset that his fears were not taken seriously.
She said he and his men had watched the enemy, using night-vision goggles, plant improvised explosive devices and were not allowed to attack them. He was allegedly told by one officer: ‘I am an Army Captain and you will do your job.’
Heartbroken: Widow Wendy Rayner (left) of Sergeant Peter Rayner (right) said her husband's concerns were 'laughed off ' by his superiors
Father-of-one Craig Smith, 36, who quit his job with 40 Commando in January and now works for a Newcastle security firm, documented the 'outrageous' orders issued to troops in a diary of his six-month tour of Afghanistan's Helmand province last May, according to the Sun.
His notebook cites several examples and claims troops were ordered to stand and watch when they spotted a Taliban fighter as the sound of shooting would 'wake up and upset the locals'.
He also reveals how they were told not to shoot or use mortars for illumination when they came across Taliban soldiers in an area full of hidden explosive devices.
Mr Smith wrote at the time: 'After a few days it becomes apparent that when we positively identify people we cannot open fire!'
Painful: Sgt Peter Rayner's family gathered at the inquest- his widow Wendy Rayner, right, mother Bernadette Rayner, left, and father Peter Rayner
Branding the policy 'an absolute outrage' he added: 'This course of action will end up with one of use being a casualty - and I will lay the blame with command.'
He told the newspaper: 'In Kajaki I saw Taliban digging in IEDs and was denied the chance to do anything about it for fear of upsetting the locals. Permission to open fire was denied as it would alarm the population.'
A Ministry of Defence spokesman said it had not seen the soldier's diary but it could be a loose interpretation of courageous restraint.
Distraught: Peter's wife Wendy and their son Derek at his funeral
Sergeant Rayner was serving with the 2nd Battalion Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment and was leading a ten-man patrol in Helmand when he was killed in an explosion last October.
The father-of-one received ‘catastrophic’ head injuries.
During the inquest, Mrs Rayner said that the Army had promised that her concerns would be dealt with, but she said: ‘I have been fobbed off.’
Mrs Rayner told Bradford Coroner's Court her husband, who joined the Army at 17, had feared his own death.
She said: ‘He was concerned about the number of explosive devices being planted in the area they were patrolling and had told higher ranks because he feared one of them would be killed.
‘He said they could see people planting these devices but could do nothing about it.
‘I feel that maybe if a bit more had been taken on board about what he had said then things might have been different.’
Mrs Rayner said her husband was ‘highly stressed’ when he called her, claiming that officers had ‘laughed off’ his concerns and he had been told to do his job.
‘He loved his job and I believe he deserved more respect,’ she said.
‘I know it was a routine patrol, but I believe that if he had been given a bit more respect and not just laughed off maybe they could have done something about it, we are losing too many men out there.’
Sergeant Rayner told his wife that officers told him that he and his men could not open fire on insurgents planting bombs or make contact with them.
His complaints were rejected by a Sergeant Major and a Captain, the inquest heard.
‘I think that if more notice had been taken of him, then he might not have died,’ she said. ‘Peter loved his men and would have done anything to stop them being killed.’
Mrs Rayner told the coroner, Professor Paul Marks: ‘I thought about it long and hard and I think he deserves his last words to be heard.’
She added: ‘Now it's my day, people will listen because I'm in court.’
Mrs Rayner rejected the offer by the coroner to adjourn the hearing so that officers involved could be called to give evidence.
The coroner recorded a verdict that Sergeant Rayner was unlawfully killed.
Outside Bradford Coroner’s Court Mrs Rayner fired a further broadside at the Ministry of Defence, calling for rules of engagement to be changed to protect soldiers.
‘They are not allowed to return fire unless they are fired upon. But all the lads have expressed concern because the patrol area was filled with IEDs.
‘They can shoot at us and take us out but the lads can’t do that to them.
These terrorists and Taliban can do what they want yet our soldiers try to do their job and get persecuted by the law.
‘If they are going to be soldiers let them be soldiers and do their jobs. The job is hard enough as it is.
‘There will be an internal investigation, but I think the rules of engagement need to be looked into if someone is planting IEDs and threatening lives.’
She said two of Sergeant Rayner’s colleagues had also been killed before her husband’s death.
‘I am really annoyed. If they had listened a bit more then it would not have happened. He should have been taken more seriously. He was just trying to protect his men. He did protect his men – but got himself killed.’
A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: ‘The whole point of a counter insurgency operation is to protect the civilian population.’
He said soldiers had to go through a series of stages before opening fire and were sometimes asked to exercise ‘courageous restraint’ even when shots had been fired.
‘It is all about winning hearts and minds and using the least force possible,’ the spokesman said.
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