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Archived - Findings of the Friendly Fire investigations regarding the death of Sergeant Doiron
May 12, 2015
1. This summary outlines the events that led to the March 6, 2015, friendly fire incident involving four members of the Canadian Special Operations Task Force (SOTF) in Iraq and the Iraqi Kurdish forces which resulted in the death of Sergeant Andrew Joseph Doiron and caused injuries to three other task force members.
2. This summary addresses the findings of two distinct investigations and one inquiry looking into the incident namely the Summary Investigation (SI) ordered by the Commander of Canadian Special Operation Forces Command (CANSOFCOM), the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service (CF NIS) investigation, as well as the Commander’s Inquiry conducted by Coalition Special Forces. The two investigations and the inquiry were conducted independently and were formed to look at different aspects of the incident.
3. The CANSOFCOM investigation examined the circumstances surrounding the friendly fire incident in order to provide a clear understanding of the facts, and to identify and recommend any measures to prevent a reoccurrence. The independent CF NIS investigation was initiated, as is the normal process, upon confirmation of Sergeant Doiron’s death. The primary purpose of the CF NIS investigation was to determine whether criminality played a role in the incident and, if necessary, recommend charges. The Coalition inquiry into the incident focused solely on a review of coalition processes and procedures in light of the incident.
4. Both of the investigations and the inquiry concluded that the tragic incident was the result of a confluence of several unrelated events that combined to cause a dangerous situation for both the members of CANSOFCOM and the Iraqi Kurdish forces assigned to protect a dangerous outpost, at night, on the forward edge of the active front line across from fighters from the so- called Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). All evidence points to the March 6 incident as being one of mistaken fratricide between Iraqi Kurdish forces and CANSOF operators. The actions taken by the CANSOF operators, including by Sergeant Doiron, were correct and justified.
5. The findings of the Summary Investigation concluded the following:
- Sgt Doiron’s detachment was operating well within their authorities and tactical competencies of advising and assisting Iraqi Kurdish forces in the area. The detachment was at that same location, at the request of Kurdish forces, earlier that day and again that night, to conduct tasks in line with their mandate. These tasks included advice on the improvement of Kurdish defensive positions as well as conducting planning in support of future deliberate Kurdish operations.
- CANSOFCOM’s intent that night was coordinated with the Kurdish forces and the tactical-level risk mitigation and battlefield de-confliction measures taken were prudent, logical and consistent with established practice up to that point. The CANSOF chain of command at the forward Kurdish Sector positions was aware of, and had informed, Kurdish forces of the planned visit.
- Sgt Doiron performed his job to the highest standards both prior to and throughout the incident. He visited all of the Kurdish defensive positions during the day and had briefed his plan for returning that same night. Prior to his departure that evening, Sergeant Doiron again confirmed the night time scheme of manoeuvre with his own soldiers and set out to visit each one of the Kurdish defensive positions.
- Unknown to Sergeant Doiron and his detachment at the time, the Iraqi Kurdish forces at that final position had conducted a shift change sometime during the day. Also unknown to Sgt Doiron, these Kurdish replacement soldiers were not informed that the CANSOF team would be returning later that night.
- The identification procedures used by Sergeant Doiron and his detachment were wholly consistent with what had been used since the start of the mission in October, 2014 and were well practiced with the Kurdish forces. Nevertheless, it must always be noted that the complexities of conducting a link up with other forces during the night is a complicated task due to the difficulties in accurately identifying and visually distinguishing friendly forces in very low light conditions as experienced on that night.
- The Iraqi Kurdish forces manning the final position expected an ISIS attack that evening. It is reasonable to conclude that the Kurdish soldiers were extremely sensitive to the heightened danger they believed they were facing. As a result, it is reasonable to believe that they would have perceived any movement, regardless of the nature, to be life-threatening. This is what is believed to have motivated the members of the final Kurdish position to engage the CANSOF operators. It was also determined that no Arabic was spoken by the CANSOF operators on the approach to the final position that night, and that Arabic was only spoken after the accident, during the coordination of the medevac.
- The conduct of all post-incident activities, including the immediate response, as well as the coordination and synchronization of equipment and resources to care for, and evacuate, Sergeant Doiron and the other wounded members of his detachment worked effectively. Iraq Kurdish forces assisted in the ground evacuation of the injured, the CANSOF operators took the appropriate steps to care for themselves and their comrades, the helicopter medevac provided excellent support to the ground forces and the coordination and experience of a forward surgical team provided critical support during a very difficult situation.
- Sergeant Andrew Joseph Doiron died of his wounds on March 7, 2015 as a result of the injuries he sustained during the friendly fire incident with Kurdish forces.
6. Further, the CF NIS investigation into the events determined that no service or criminal offences had been committed by CAF members. The CF NIS report points to mistaken identity and a breakdown in communication in a setting characterized by tension, fatigue and confusion as the main factors leading to the death of Sergeant Doiron.
7. The Coalition inquiry into the incident concluded that the Canadian team followed all pre-established procedures and that they had conducted their operations appropriately and in concert with all pre-approved and accepted protocols. The results of this examination were passed from operational commander to operational commander, namely from the Commander of the Coalition Special Forces to the Commander of CANSOFCOM.
8. The evidence from both investigations and the Coalition inquiry point to the incident on March 6, 2015 as being one of mistaken identity between Iraqi Kurdish forces and CANSOF operators. Kurdish forces occupying that final defensive position, unaware of the scheduled arrival of Sgt Doiron’s detachment, despite the daytime visit, operating in night-time conditions, in anticipation of an ISIS attack, engaged the CANSOF operators despite the prior coordination and professional conduct of Sergeant Doiron and his detachment.
9. In light of these findings, CANSOFCOM has implemented additional protocols when conducting similar activities at night, in order to mitigate the risks to CANSOFCOM and Iraqi Kurdish forces in the future.
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