Australian elite forces allegedly killed 39 Afghan civilians unlawfully in an environment where “competition killings” were reportedly a norm, an independent inquiry has found. The Australian Defence Force (ADF) has released findings from an inquiry commissioned by in 2016 after rumours and allegations of war crimes on members of the Special Operations Task Group in Afghanistan from 2005 to 2016.
General Angus Campbell told a press conference on Thursday that the ADF is rightly held to account for allegations of “grave misconduct” by some members of the elite forces. He said that the Inspector-General’s report detailed credible information regarding “deeply disturbing allegations” of unlawful killings.
“This shameful record includes alleged instances in which new patrol members were coerced to shoot a prisoner in order to achieve that soldier’s first kill in an appalling practice known as ‘blooding’,” said General Campbell.
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What lies ahead for the soldiers accused of unlawful killings?
Army chief Lieutenant General Rick Burr said in a statement that he has directed removal of the title ‘2 Squadron, Special Air Service Regiment’ from the Australian Army’s Order of Battle. He stressed that the incidents outlined in the report occurred across the Regiment, however, it was clear that there was a nexus of alleged serious criminal activities, in 2 Squadron, Special Air Service Regiment.
“As I continue to analyse the extensive findings, be assured that where there is evidence of misconduct individuals will be held to account. This may be through disciplinary or administrative action,” said Burr.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison had earlier indicated that a special investigator would be appointed to mull over prosecutions from the findings of the report. According to Australian media reports, police investigations into the alleged war crimes would likely take years before possible criminal trials begin.