OTTAWA — The Canadian military was unable to say Friday how much — if anything — the public will learn following a pair of investigations into the deadly friendly fire incident in northern Iraq which claimed the life of Sgt. Andrew Doiron.
The reviews — one by military’s criminal investigation service and the other by the special forces — are still ongoing, navy Capt. Paul Forget said at a briefing.
There have been conflicting accounts of the March 6 incident, which occurred at night near the front line and saw a team of Canadian special forces operators sprayed with gunfire by a Kurdish sentry at an observation post.
Kurdish officials claimed the Canadians showed up unannounced and used an Arabic password. The Kurd soldiers feared they had been infiltrated by Islamic State extremists.
Canadian defence officials, including the newly appointed minister Jason Kenney, disputed that account. They have urged patience while the investigations are underway, but Forget could not say what, if anything can be said in the aftermath, particularly about the special forces, whose operations are cloaked in secrecy.
“Oftentimes what happens is those reports end up classified,” Forget said. “The intent would be to provide a redacted copy, most likely, of the results of that incident. Again, until those reports are completed, it is very hard to speculate what can be made public and what cannot.”
The U.S-led coalition is conducting its own investigation.
NDP deputy leader Megan Leslie said the military is going to have to meet a basic level of public accountability.
“The line, just trust us, just doesn’t cut it any more,” she said. “If you read between the lines of Capt. Forget’s statement, that’s what you’re getting: Just trust us.
“We’re not actually getting the information we need and the public needs, especially with the contradictory accounts we’ve been given in Sgt. Doiron’s death. I think we need to understand what happened.”
National Defence took pains to point out in the aftermath of Doiron’s death that special forces were conducting a technical investigation to ensure that there was no repeat of the incident and Forget indicated they have already learned lessons.
He didn’t say, however, what has been learned.
“After such tragedies, we always immediately revise our tactics and procedures,” Forget said.
Forget said two soldiers wounded by the Kurdish fighters have returned to duty in northern Iraq while a third is still recovering at a Canadian hospital.
The situation in Iraq was painted in relatively promising terms at the briefing. Forget said Iraqi forces have made small gains against entrenched extremists in places like al-Baghdadi and Fallujah, in western Iraq.
In Tikrit, reports surfaced this week that Islamic State fighters had attacked Kurdish forces with chlorine gas.
Canadian troops are not operating near Tikrit, but Forget said the special forces working with the Kurds have the proper gear to protect themselves in the event of a chemical attack.
The military also said Canadian warplanes bombed two more Islamic State targets in northern Iraq over the last 24 hours.
CF-18s on Thursday hit a factory near Kirkuk that was making roadside bombs and were back in the air on Friday dropping laser-guided munitions on fighting positions and construction equipment east of Mosul.