French families to sue over soldiers' deaths

The families of two French soldiers killed in an ambush in August 2008 in Afghanistan's north-eastern Kapisa Valley are planning to file a lawsuit to determine whether the lives of their loved ones were put at risk unnecessarily.


REUTERS - The families of two French soldiers killed in Afghanistan last year plan to file a lawsuit to find out whether their lives were put at risk unnecessarily, their lawyer said on Thursday.

The two were among 10 French soldiers killed in an ambush in a valley east of Kabul in August 2008. A NATO account later said the men had been insufficiently trained and equipped, sparking a national debate over French troops in Afghanistan.

The lawsuit over "deliberately endangering the lives of others" is expected to be filed with a military tribunal on Monday, lawyer Gilbert Collard said.

It was not clear whether the lawsuit would be filed against the army or against an unknown party, a procedure often used to push demands for an investigation.

France has some 3,000 troops in Afghanistan, one of the biggest contingents after the United States, Britain and Germany.

Like its allies, it is caught between public resistance to increasing troop numbers and the inability of existing forces on the ground to cope with a worsening insurgency. France has repeatedly said it will not send more soldiers.

The defence ministry reacted cautiously. Spokesman Laurent Teisseire told a news conference it would wait until the families and the court confirmed the lawsuit.

"It's up to each family to decide what to do after the death of one of its members," he said.

An internal investigation after the ambush showed there were "a number of improvements" to be made, Teisseire said, adding that appropriate changes were then put into place.

The NATO account said the soldiers had been supplied with inadequate ammunition and poor communications equipment.

Collard said the lawsuit was not against the army as a whole, but that mistakes were made by officers in charge.

He said the families felt their questions over the deaths had not been answered.

"We want an investigation to establish the truth," he added. "To find out the chain of responsibilities and point out flaws in the command chain, in the interest of the army itself."

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