This comes just weeks before the expected release of a report by the Australian military on findings following a four-year investigation into alleged war crimes committed during the country’s participation in the US-led war in Afghanistan.
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) carried out its own investigation and this week reported that SAS troops had killed as many as 10 unarmed Afghan civilians during a December 2012 operation in Kandahar province.
ABC reported that the raid involved both SAS troops and Afghan special forces while searching for Taliban insurgents.
One local farmer, Abdul Qadus, told ABC there “there were three Taliban in nomad houses.”
“They resisted and were killed. But then [the SAS] killed other people, civilians,” said Qadus.
He also told ABC that his brother Adbul Salim had also been shot dead.
“At the time he was carrying a load of onions; he was taking them to the city,” said Qadus.
“There were some other people with him as well… I saw them being shot and killed.”
“Another one was my cousin, who was sitting and packing onions when they shot and killed him,” Qadus added.
Another villager identified only by his first name Rahmatullah said that the Australians came after him. “They were shooting people intentionally,” he said. “They were mass shooting.”
The Inspector-General of the Australian Defence Force (IGADF) has spent the past four years investigating rumors and allegations of war crimes committed by Australian special forces in Afghanistan and investigators are looking into more than 55 separate incidents of alleged breaches of the rules of war between 2005 and 2016.
According to ABC, more than 330 people have so far given evidence to the inquiry.
The IGADF report is expected to be delivered in the coming weeks.
In a separate report this week, ABC stated that members of the SAS 3 Squadron allegedly planted the same AK-47 rifle on the bodies of two different Afghan civilians killed in May 2012.
ABC started the rifle was easily identifiable because it had teal-colored tape wrapped around its stock.
Three Afghans were killed in the raid but SAS claimed they were all insurgents. However, Australian sources and the families of the victims say that while one of the dead men was a Taliban fighter, the other two were civilians.
In March, ABC reported former SAS operative Braden Chapman as having said he witnessed soldiers in SAS patrols commit executions in cold blood.
Chapman first deployed to Afghanistan in 2012, but spoke to ABC about the horrors he witnessed.
“When you’re back at the unit, people would make jokes about the size of the rug that they’ve swept everything under, and that one day it’ll all come out and people are going to be thrown in jail for murder or anything else that they’ve done,” Chapman told ABC.
These new reports come only two weeks after Australian Special Operations Commander Major-General Adam Findlay admitted that SAS soldiers committed war crimes in Afghanistan.
Findlay blamed “poor moral leadership up the chain of command” for the crimes and hailed the “moral courage” of SAS members who blew the whistle on their fellow soldiers’ unlawful acts.
Findlay said that a “small number of commissioned officers had allowed a culture where abhorrent conduct was permitted,” and that “a handful of experienced soldiers including patrol commanders and deputy patrol commanders… had enabled this culture to exist.”
The commander added that “war crimes may have been covered up.”
Three years ago, hundreds of pages of secret defense force documents were leaked to ABC – documents that gave an unprecedented insight into the clandestine operations of Australia’s elite special forces in Afghanistan.
Some of the cases detailed in the documents are being investigated.
The documents, many marked AUSTEO — Australian Eyes Only — suggest a growing unease at the highest levels of defense about the culture of Australia’s special forces, ABC reported.
One document from 2014 refers to ingrained “problems” within special forces, an “organizational culture” including a “warrior culture” and a willingness by officers to turn a blind eye to poor behavior.
Another document refers to a “desensitization” and “drift in values” among elite Special Air Service soldiers serving in Afghanistan, while others allude to deep divisions between the two elite units which primarily comprise the special forces – the SAS based in Perth and 2 Commando Regiment based in Sydney, ABC reported.
A large proportion of the documents reports on at least 10 incidents between 2009-2013 in which special forces troops shot dead insurgents, but also unarmed men and children.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has refused to comment on any of the recent revelations, saying he does not want to involve himself in the independent investigation.
However, his government is reportedly prosecuting whistleblower David McBride, a former military lawyer who allegedly leaked classified material to ABC documenting at least 10 potential war crimes.
Police have now referred allegations against an ABC journalist relating to the Afghan Files to prosecutors, the public broadcaster says.
ABC managing director David Anderson said this month it was a “disappointing and disturbing development” and the broadcaster was fully backing its reporter, Dan Oakes, who wrote a series of stories around the Afghan Files.
“The allegations concern Dan’s reporting on the series of stories published by the ABC in 2017 known as the Afghan Files. They were also what prompted the AFP’s extraordinary raid on the ABC’s Ultimo headquarters last year,” he said.
“This is a disappointing and disturbing development. The Afghan Files is factual and important reporting which exposed allegations about Australian soldiers committing war crimes in Afghanistan. Its accuracy has never been challenged.”
“The ABC fully backs Dan and we will continue to support him however we can. Doing accurate journalism that is clearly in the public interest should not be an offence,” Anderson said.
Oakes meanwhile tweeted earlier this month that whether or not he was eventually charged, “the most important thing is that those who broke our laws and the laws of armed conflict are held to account. Our nation should be better.”
Source : Afghan Voce Agency(AVA)