<Australia Breaknews=Eddie Kim, Sydney>
▲ Australia's prime minister apologized after a report was released on the killing of civilians by Australian troops during the Afghan war. ©aubreaknews
Reports of a cover-up of civilian killings in connection with the dispatch of Australian special forces to Afghanistan have created a stir.
According to the Guardian on the 19th (local time), Paul Bretton, director of the Australian Defense Inspection Office (IGADF), said that elite troops, including the Australian Air Force Special Forces (SAS), illegally killed 39 people in Afghanistan from 2005 to 2016. After interviewing 423 witnesses over the past four years, and investigating 20,000 documents, Bretton published a report containing such information.
According to the report, those killed by Australian special forces were civilians or prisoners. Killing unarmed civilians outside the scene of combat constitutes a "war crime" under international law. There are a total of 25 suspects, some of whom are still active soldiers.
In particular, the report said the prisoners were killed because of the reported practice of "blooming," in which senior soldiers were forced to kill so that new soldiers could experience murder. The report said, "In general, the patrol captain held one person and the subordinate was ordered to kill the person," adding, "The patrol officers were either deified in the unit or considered heroes, making it difficult for (lower soldiers) to violate the order." After the killing, soldiers left evidence of forgery, including weapons and mobile phones, on their bodies to justify their actions. It was a cover-up of the murder by falsely accusing the prisoner of hostile acts.
"We started the investigation in the hope that rumors about war crimes could be reported as groundless," said Breerton, who conducted the investigation. "Nobody wanted this to happen. (Results of the investigation) It's a disgrace," he said.
Angus Campbell, chief of staff of the Australian Defense Forces, held a press conference and said, "It is shameful and very shocking. On behalf of the Australian military, I sincerely apologize to Afghan citizens for the wrongdoings of our soldiers."
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison called Afghan President Ashraf Ghani before the report was published and apologized for the incident, the Guardian said.
President Gani wrote on Twitter, "(Prime Minister Morrison) expressed deep sadness over some flights committed by Australian troops in Afghanistan and said he would carry out an investigation and realize justice."
Meanwhile, a government official, who declined to be identified, said, "This is an insult to Australia's value," adding, "The Defense Ministry and the government should be an opportunity to pledge to prevent a government official said on condition of anonymity.