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Five British Marines charged with murder in Afghan death

Five of Britain's elite Royal Marines have been charged with murder over a death in southern Afghanistan. They are the first UK troops to be charged with murder there since deployments began in 2001.

The British Defense Ministry announced on Sunday that the five marines had been charged with murder following an incident involving an insurgent in the southwestern Helmand province in 2011. Officials said no civilians were involved.

British military police had arrested seven Royal Marines last Thursday and two others on Friday and Saturday. Four have since been released without charge.

"The Royal Military Police has referred the case of the remaining five Royal Marines to the independent Service Prosecuting Authority," a spokesman for the ministry said.

"Following direction from the SPA, these marines have now been charged with murder and they remain in custody pending court proceedings," he added.

'Suspicious footage'

The Afghan government immediately welcomed the arrests on Thursday, calling it "a good step."

The BBC has reported that the marines were arrested after police found suspicious footage on a serviceman's laptop.

The majority of the 9,500 British troops in Afghanistan are stationed in Helmand province, said to be a stronghold of Taliban insurgents. All are due to leave by the end of 2014.

Some 433 British personnel have been killed in Afghanistan since the start of the conflict in 2001.

tj/slk (AFP, AP)