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Officer charged in shooting of Afghans

March 18, 2013 at 4:08 PM   |   Comments

FORT BRAGG, N.C., March 18 (UPI) -- A U.S. Army lieutenant is facing charges stemming from the deaths of two men while he was leading a patrol in a remote section of Afghanistan, officials say.

The incident prompted authorities to take away 1st Lt. Clint Lorance's gun even though he was in a combat zone. He also lost his leadership position, The (Oklahoma City) Oklahoman reported Monday.

Lorance, born in Oklahoma, was leading a patrol of about 20 soldiers in Kandahar province in July 2012 when two men on a motorcycle approached the unit. He ordered his troops to shoot the men, which they did. Two other men were arrested.

Now at Fort Bragg, N.C., he must answer for multiple charges resulting from that incident. He has been charged with two counts of murder arising from his order to shoot the men on the motorcycle. Military prosecutors say the men showed "no indication of hostile act or hostile intent."

He has also been charged with attempted murder for ordering his men to -- unsuccessfully -- shoot at a third man who fled the area, as well as with making false official statements, ordering illegal harassing fire into a village, obstructing justice and making threats against villagers.

Defense attorney Guy Womack, a retired Marine officer and former military judge, said everything the soldiers did "was absolutely within the rules of engagement."

Donald G. Rehkopf, a former Air Force attorney, said the political uproar in Washington over the overturning of a sexual assault conviction of an Air Force officer could cause the commanding general reviewing Lorance's case to refer it to a court-martial to sort out all the evidence.

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