Australian troops unlawfully killed 39 Afghans, report alleges

Chief of the Australian Defence Force Gen. Angus Campbell delivers the findings from the Inspector-General of the Australian Defence Force Afghanistan Inquiry, in Canberra, Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020. (Mick Tsikas/Pool Photo via AP)

By Shafna Hussein Wellington, New Zealand: A shocking Australian military report into war crimes has found evidence that elite Australian troops unlawfully killed 39 Afghan prisoners, farmers, and civilians.

Australian Defence Force Chief Gen. Angus Campbell on Thursday revealed some “shameful records.” 

He said that the records included alleged instances in which new patrol members would shoot a prisoner to achieve their first kill in a practice known as “blooding.” 

And the soldiers would then plant weapons and radios to support false claims that the prisoners were enemies killed in action, said Campbell. 

Campbell told reporters in Canberra that the majority of illegal killings occurred in 2012 and 2013. He said some members of the elite Special Air Service encouraged “a self-centered, warrior culture.”

The chief was announcing the findings of a four-year investigation by Maj. Gen. Paul Brereton, a judge and Army reservist who was asked to look into the allegations and interviewed more than 400 witnesses, and reviewed thousands of pages of documents. Brereton recommended 19 soldiers be investigated by police for possible charges, including murder.

“To the people of Afghanistan, on behalf of the Australian Defence Force, I sincerely and unreservedly apologize for any wrongdoing by Australian soldiers,” Campbell said.

He said he’d spoken directly to his Afghan military counterpart to express his remorse.

As well as the 39 killings, the report outlines two allegations of cruel treatment. It says that none of the alleged crimes were committed during the heat of battle.

Only parts of the report have been made public. Many details, including the names of alleged killers, remain redacted.