U.S. troops charged over death of fellow soldier

Reuters News
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Posted: Dec 21, 2011 12:58 PM
U.S. troops charged over death of fellow soldier

By Emma Graham-Harrison

KABUL (Reuters) - Eight U.S. soldiers have been charged in connection with the October death of Private Danny Chen, who was found in a guard tower in southern Afghanistan after apparently shooting himself, NATO-led forces in Afghanistan said on Wednesday.

Chen's platoon leader, 1st Lieutenant Daniel Schwartz, is among the accused, charged with dereliction of duty. Five other soldiers face charges including involuntary manslaughter, assault and negligent homicide.

The charges were the result of a commander's inquiry into the death of 19 year-old Chen, an only child from the Manhattan Chinatown community in New York.

An Army criminal investigation into the circumstances of Chen's death remains open, said a spokesman for the U.S. Army's Criminal Investigation Command.

"Aside from investigating the actual cause and manner of Private Chen's death, we are also investigating the circumstances leading up to his death," U.S.-based spokesman Chris Grey said in an email.

"You can be sure that CID will continue to conduct a professional and very thorough investigation. We are not releasing any details to the public at this point to protect the integrity of our ongoing investigation."

Other charges from the commander's inquiry, detailed by the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), include maltreatment, communicating a threat, making a false official statement and destruction of military property.

All the soldiers charged are members of C Company, 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, based in Fort Wainwright, Alaska.

The charges come barely two months after three U.S. Marines were ordered to face court-martial on charges they physically abused and humiliated a fellow Marine who later killed himself while they were serving in Afghanistan.

Lance Corporal Harry Lew, 21, shot himself during a patrol in April after he was allegedly beaten and hazed by others in his unit for falling asleep while on sentry duty.