An internal inquiry is alleging that Australian special forces unlawfully killed more than three dozen unarmed civilians and prisoners in Afghanistan over an 11-year period.
General Angus Campbell, chief of the Australian Defense Force, revealed the results of a four-year special investigation during a press conference in Canberra on Thursday.
Campbell said there was credible evidence that 25 special forces personnel took part in the deaths of 39 Afghans between 2005 and 2016, all of which happened outside “the heat of battle.”
The report included allegations that forces engaged in a practice called “blooding,” in which senior officers would coerce rookie members to shoot a prisoner in order to achieve the soldier’s first kill. The junior soldiers would then stage a firefight to justify their actions.
Campbell said the crimes evolved out of a “self-centered warrior culture” that resulted in rules being broken, “stories concocted, lies told and prisoners killed.”
The report recommended that 19 current and former soldiers be referred to Australian Federal Police for criminal investigation, and that the government offer compensation to the families of the victims. Campbell also said those accused in the killings would be referred to a special investigator for war crimes.
The inquiry was prompted by a 2017 report aired by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that Australian troops had committed war crimes in Afghanistan, where they were deployed to support the 2001 U.S.-led invasion in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison warned the nation last week to prepare for some difficult revelations to come out of the investigation.
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