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Australian troops 'unlawfully killed 39 Afghans'

Australian troops 'unlawfully killed 39 Afghans'”

All of those kills were outside the "heat of battle", Campbell said. The war crimes report found junior soldiers were encouraged to shoot prisoners to get their first kill.

Justice Brereton also found there was credible evidence some soldiers carried "throw downs" such as weapons and military equipment to make it appear the person killed was a legitimate target.

A years-long internal investigation into military misconduct was released Thursday, prompting the Chief of the Australian Defence Force to admit a "destructive" culture of impunity among special forces leading to a string of alleged murders and cover-ups spanning years.

"The report will allow the Taliban to blame foreign forces for the suffering of Afghan civilians even though Taliban fighters are responsible for the deaths of over 100,000 civilians in the past decade", he said, adding that any remaining Australian personnel in Afghanistan may be under threat of retaliation.

"To the people of Afghanistan, on behalf of the Australian Defence Force, I sincerely and unreservedly apologize for any wrongdoing by Australian soldiers, " Campbell stated, in delivering the findings.

The matter first came to public attention in 2017 when public broadcaster ABC published the so-called "Afghan files", which alleged Australian troops had killed unarmed men and children in Afghanistan. Army commanders were condemned for allowing "criminal behavior" to be "conceived, committed ... and concealed".

Prime minister Scott Morrison has said previously that Australia had to confront "brutal" truths about the actions of some of its soldiers.

In response, Australian police launched an investigation into two ABC reporters for obtaining classified information - even raiding the broadcaster's Sydney headquarters previous year, before dropping the case.

A detail of the flag of Australia on an Australian Army soldier

Australia's role in the war in Afghanistan was split into two separate phases - Operation Slipper from 2001 until 2014, after which the Afghan security forces took over the majority of the fighting, and then the ongoing Operation Highroad, which began in 2015.

As well, the inquiry recommended various service medals be stripped away from some individuals and groups.

While the report was heavily redacted, it included allegations that senior special forces personnel ordered the killing of unarmed Afghans. "We are all diminished by it".

Campbell went a step further, saying those involved in the alleged unlawful killing of 39 people had brought a "stain" on their regiment, on the armed forces and on Australia and would be referred to the office of the special investigator for war crimes.

"In this telephone call, the Prime Minister of Australia expressed his deepest sorrow over the misconduct by some Australian troops in Afghanistan and assured the President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan of the investigations and to ensuring justice", Ghani's office tweeted.

Morrison spoke with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani ahead of the report's release, a source familiar with the conversation said.

"The report contained some disturbing allegations and the Australian government was taking those allegations very seriously". So they would be dealt with according to Australian law.

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