Soldier accused in Taliban fighter's death was ordered to provide first aid, court hears

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The commanding officer of the Canadian soldier accused of killing a Taliban fighter who lay badly wounded on the battlefield ordered the captain to offer first aid to the insurgent, a court martial heard Thursday.Maj. Steven Nolan said he received a radio call from Capt. Robert Semrau at 11 a.m. on Oct. 19, 2008.Semrau was the leader of a small group of Canadian soldiers embedded with the Afghan National Army (ANA), which was clearing Taliban insurgents from around the town of Lashkar Gha, in Helmand Province.

Nolan said Semrau wanted to know what to do. He had encountered a wounded Taliban whom the Afghans were not treating.

"My reply was fairly standard," Nolan testified. "Mentor the ANA in providing first aid."

Semrau replied: "Roger, out."

It was Semrau's job as leader of a mentoring team to teach the Afghan what to do in such a situation, Nolan said. The idea, he said, was to "try your best to get the Afghans to step in and do it and step in to prevent failure."

Five to seven minutes later, Semrau came back on the radio, Nolan said: "and indicated to me the Taliban had died of his wounds."

Semrau, 36, of Canadian Forces Base Petawawa, is on trial for second-degree murder for allegedly shooting the severely wounded, unarmed Taliban insurgent in the chest with a C-8 rifle.

Semrau attended high school in Moose Jaw.

The court martial has heard that Semrau later justified the shooting as a mercy killing.

Nolan testified that the operation during which Semrau allegedly committed the crime was hastily assembled. He received orders to move with 297 Afghan soldiers and 30 Canadians into a dangerous part of Helmand province 12 hours in advance of their scheduled departure.

The Canadians were divided into three groups, with Semrau leading a team of three other soldiers and an interpreter. The Afghan police, British and U.S. forces were also involved in the operation.

The job of the Canadians was to assist and to mentor their Afghan counterparts and to "not let them fail in the execution of their mission," Nolan said.

Organizations: Taliban, Canadian Forces Base Petawawa

Geographic location: Moose Jaw.The, Helmand, U.S.

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