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Australian special forces suspected of unlawfully killing at least 39 Afghans

Long awaited report details sickening crimes against civilians

AUSTRALIAN special forces are suspected of at least 39 unlawful killings in Afghanistan, according to a long-awaited report published today that details sickening crimes against civilians.

General Angus Campbell said that prisoners, farmers and other civilians were among those executed and offered his unreserved apologies to the Afghan people for such crimes.

“These findings allege the most serious breaches of military conduct and professional values,” Gen Campbell said, adding: “The unlawful killing of civilians and prisoners is never acceptable.”

An inquiry was launched in 2016 after reports of the alleged killing of unarmed men and children by Australian troops began to appear in the press.

The authorities moved swiftly to cover up the alleged war crimes and last year raided the offices of the Australian Broadcasting Company (ABC), which had released details of some of the allegations as part of its Afghan Files series.

Criminal proceedings were started against a number of ABC journalists and the channel’s director, but the case was quietly dropped last month.

The report “found there to be credible information to substantiate 23 incidents of alleged unlawful killing of 39 people by 25 Australian special forces personnel, predominantly from the Special Air Service Regiment,” Gen Campbell confirmed in a press statement.

Some of those allegedly responsible are still serving in the military. The inquiry recommended that the 23 incidents be referred to the police for criminal investigation.

It found that the unlawful killings would be “the war crime of murder” if accepted by a jury, with a further two incidents being “the war crime of cruel treatment.”

In a sickening initiation known as “blooding,” junior soldiers were forced to shoot prisoners as part of a “first kill” and weapons were planted on some of the victims.

Among the other allegations are that a prisoner was shot dead to save space in a helicopter and that a six-year-old child was killed in a house raid.

Australian Defence Forces Inspector General James Gaynor wrote in a letter accompanying the report: “None of these alleged crimes was committed during the heat of battle. The alleged victims were non-combatants or no longer combatants.”

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani confirmed that he had received an apology from Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

“The prime minister of Australia expressed his deepest sorrow over the misconduct by some Australian troops in Afghanistan,” Mr Ghani’s office said.

Canberra is, however, resisting calls for its soldiers to face trial at the International Criminal Court, insisting that they be dealt with by Australia’s own legal system.

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