A shocking Australian military report on war crimes found evidence that elite Australian troops illegally killed 39 Afghan prisoners, farmers and civilians.
Australian Defense Force chief Gen. Angus Campbell said on Thursday that the shameful record included alleged cases in which new patrol members would shoot a prisoner to get his first death in a practice known as “bleeding”. He said soldiers would plant weapons and radios to support false claims that the prisoners were enemies killed in combat.
Campbell said the illegal killings started in 2009, with the majority occurring in 2012 and 2013. He said some members of the Special Air Service had encouraged “an egocentric warrior culture”.
He said the report recommended that 19 soldiers be investigated by the police on possible charges, including murder.
The chief was announcing the results of a four-year investigation conducted by Paul Brereton, a judge who was asked to examine the allegations and interviewed more than 400 witnesses and reviewed thousands of pages of documents.
“To the people of Afghanistan, on behalf of the Australian Defense Force, I sincerely and unreservedly apologize for any wrongdoing by Australian soldiers,” said Campbell.
He said he spoke directly to his Afghan military colleague to express his remorse.
“This alleged behavior deeply disrespected the trust placed in us by the Afghan people, who asked us to help their country,” said Campbell. “It would have devastated the lives of Afghan families and communities, causing immeasurable pain and suffering. And it would have jeopardized our mission and the safety of our Afghan partners and the coalition.”