Australia Admits Troops Involvement in Murder of Unarmed Afghan Civilians
Story Code : 898930
In further details, Australia's top general made the admission as he released the findings of a years-long investigation by Major General Justice Paul Brereton into military misconduct in Afghanistan, saying there was credible evidence Australian Special Forces had "unlawfully" killed at least 39 Afghan civilians and inmates in more than a decade.
Angus Campbell, Australia's chief of the Defense Force, said during a press conference in Canberra on Thursday that a "destructive" culture of impunity among the elite troops had led to a string of murders and cover-ups by 25 Special Forces personnel in 23 separate incidents.
"Some patrols took the law into their own hands, rules were broken, stories concocted, lies told, and prisoners killed," Campbell said.
"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,'" the top Australian military official said.
The heavily-redacted 465-page report explained that once a person had been killed, those responsible would stage a fight scene by placing weapons next to the bodies of the deceased to give the impression that they had posed a military threat.
There was even competition between some patrols to outscore others in the number of "enemy soldiers" killed in action.
Campbell said the killings took place "outside the heat of battle" and recommended that the culprits be referred to Australian Federal Police and compensation be paid to the victims' families.
He then underlined that those involved in the unlawful killing of Afghans had left a "stain" on the record of armed forces and Australia, and their case would be dealt by the special investigator for war crimes.
Campbel concluded by saying that the unlawful killing of civilians and prisoners was "never acceptable," and apologized to the people of Afghanistan for the tragedy.
"To the people of Afghanistan, on behalf of the Australian Defense Force, I sincerely and unreservedly apologize for any wrongdoing by Australian soldiers," Campbell said during the press conference.
He also apologized to the people of Australia and said the majority of Special Forces "did not choose to take this unlawful path."
Prior to the release of the damning report, Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison had warned that the findings would include "difficult and hard news for Australians."
The Australian government had previously spent years trying to gag whistle-blowers or dismiss reports of wrongdoings by the country's military personnel.
The brutal killing of unarmed men and children in Afghanistan first came to public attention in 2017 when national broadcaster ABC published the "Afghan files," which revealed the war crimes of Australian troops in the Asian country.