Australian soldiers killed 39 civilians and prisoners in Afghanistan

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Australian elite forces have illegally killed 39 people in Afghanistan, own investigation shows (pdf) of the country’s armed forces to alleged war crimes. Australian General John Angus Campbell presented the findings Thursday.

General Apologizes: ‘Shameful’

25 soldiers are said to have been involved in a total of 23 incidents. Most of them belonged to the Special Air Service Regiment, an Australian special military unit. The incidents took place between 2005 and 2016. A number of the suspected military personnel would still serve in the armed forces.

The investigation was launched in 2016 after allegations in various media outlets that the military had killed children and unarmed men. The investigation shows that the 25 victims were prisoners, farmers or other civilians.

The incidents did not take place during firefights, but according to the investigation, in some cases would have been “hazing rituals” for new soldiers. Their leaders would have made them kill prisoners. Subsequently, those involved would have simulated a fight with enemies to “justify” the murder.

“I sincerely apologize to the people of Afghanistan on behalf of the Australian military for crimes committed by Australian soldiers,” said General Campbell.

Campbell called the findings “shameful” and spoke of a “self-centered warrior culture” within the elite SASR regiment. The Inspector General’s report states that there was a “harmful competitive” culture in that regiment. According to General Campbell, this led to “half work and ignoring and twisting the rules”.

A special prosecutor will soon be appointed to determine whether there is enough evidence to prosecute military personnel.

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