SAS leaders reportedly forced new soldiers to kill prisoners so they could get “bleeding,” it has been reported.
Australian troops may be prosecuted for unlawful killings in Afghanistan between 2007 and 2013.
General Angus Campbell, Chief of the Australian Defense Force, released a heavily edited report prepared by Paul Brereton, a Sydney senior judge and former Army Reserve General.
It took the judge about four years to complete an investigation and prepare the report.
Justice Brereton found information that Australian special forces have committed up to 39 alleged unlawful murders while operating within the American-led coalition in Afghanistan.
The murders reportedly included the shooting of ‘first kill’ by junior soldiers on orders from SAS who wanted their subordinates to be ‘bloodied’, The times reports.
The report also found that foreign weapons and communications equipment used to be placed next to the bodies of dead people so that they could look like soldiers in an attempt to deceive senior officers.
General Campbell claimed that the number of Afghans unlawfully killed by rogue special forces could even exceed 39.
He said, “I have to reluctantly accept that as a possibility.”
The general also encouraged anyone who may have information about the unlawful murders to come forward.
He told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, “I didn’t expect it to be good. But I didn’t know how bad it would be.
“And it’s a very, very confronting report.”
One incident, edited in the report, was described as “possibly the most disgraceful episode in Australia’s military history.”
Following the report, up to 19 serving and training soldiers – mostly from SAS – will be criminally investigated and potentially lose their medals.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison called Ashraf Ghani, the Afghan president, hours before the report was published.
He promised to continue to investigate the allegations and pointed out that the integrity of the special forces was critical.
Australia’s Defense Secretary said she was “physically ill” after reading the findings of the investigation.
“I was like any other Australian who saw that – I was totally and utterly shocked and hurt,” said Linda Reynolds.
“I got the report two weeks ago and it made me physically ill.”
The allegations were handled by ABC in one documentary earlier this year.
The Australian government will appoint a special investigator to oversee the next steps.