Special Forces emails about SAS killings in Afghanistan 'deeply troubling', says lawyer

Solicitor acting for relatives concerned evidence ‘nearly remained hidden’

Aine Fo
Sunday 02 August 2020 18:04
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Special forces soldiers allegedly murdered civilians and planted guns on their bodies
Special forces soldiers allegedly murdered civilians and planted guns on their bodies

Internal Special Forces emails disclosed as part of a High Court case around the deaths of four Afghans shot by the SAS have been described as “deeply troubling” by a lawyer for a relative of the deceased.

Documents showed that “immediate and serious concerns” were raised about the killings in Helmand province in February 2011, and members of the British Army were raising concerns at the time about a “pattern of killings by the same unit”, the solicitor said.

The Sunday Times reported that internal communications between senior special forces officers showed serious concerns being expressed about the deaths of 33 people in 11 raids during a three-month period that year by one SAS unit.

The newspaper quoted one email in which, it said, one of the country’s highest-ranking special forces officers described allegations he had received as “explosive” and “disturbing” and that they suggested “a deliberate policy” among one unit “to engage and kill fighting-aged males on target even when they did not pose a threat”.

Saifullah Yar, in his 20s, has been granted a judicial review into the deaths of four of his family who were were shot on February 16 2011.

The emails were disclosed to his legal team as part of the High Court hearing last month.

His lawyer Tessa Gregory, from law firm Leigh Day, said: “The material disclosed is deeply troubling. Not only does it show that the Afghan Partnering Unit raised immediate and serious concerns about the shootings of our client’s relatives, it also shows that members of the British Army were contemporaneously raising concerns that the shootings formed part of a pattern of killings by the same unit, with there even being a suggestion that there was a deliberate policy of killing fighting-aged males when they posed no threat.

“It is a matter of grave concern that all of this nearly remained hidden.

“Our client was almost shut out from bringing this case because the government repeatedly stated in these proceedings that there was no basis for initiating an independent investigation before 2014, or for considering the shootings were anything other than in accordance with the rules of engagement.

“What has been revealed makes plain that is untrue. It substantially adds to our client’s concern that there has been a cover-up and it has left him more determined than ever to find out the truth of what happened to his loved ones.”

A spokesman for the Ministry of Defence said: “This is not new evidence, and this historical case has already been independently investigated by the Royal Military Police (RMP) as part of Operation Northmoor. It has also been subject to four reviews conducted by an independent review team.

“These documents were considered as part of the independent investigations, which concluded there was insufficient evidence to refer the case for prosecution.

“The Service Police and the Service Prosecuting Authority of course remain open to considering allegations should new evidence, intelligence or information come to light.”

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