Australian soldiers killed Afghan amputee then drank beer from his prosthetic leg

Prime minister Malcolm Turnbull calls it 'completely and utterly unacceptable'

Chris Baynes
Thursday 14 June 2018 21:46 BST
Australian soldiers in Afghanistan's southern province Uruzgan
Australian soldiers in Afghanistan's southern province Uruzgan (AFP/Getty)

Australian troops killed an Afghan amputee and kept his prosthetic leg as a souvenir, which they took back to Perth and drank beer from, an investigation has found.

The man’s death is one of several alleged war crimes committed by a rogue Special Air Service Regiment (SASR) team deployed to Afghanistan.

On the same mission, a “rookie” trooper on his first deployment was pressured by higher-ranking soldier into killing an unarmed, elderly detainee as a part of a “blooding” ritual, Fairfax Media reported.

Special forces sources who witnessed the 2009 killing said the man was a suspected Taliban member but posed no threat when he was shot dead.

Two senior soldiers had been overheard declaring the need to “blood the rookie” insiders said.

In separate incident the same year, an Afghan man with a prosthetic leg was machine-gunned and killed by a soldier during a raid in Urozgan province.

Troops kept the artificial limb and took it back to their headquarters, where it was reportedly fashioned into a novelty drinking vessel.

A picture obtained by Fairfax showed the leg mounted onto a board reading “Das Boot”.

Sources said the soldier who shot the amputee was also implicated in the killing of a handcuffed detainee during a SASR mission in the village of Darwan in 2012.

It is alleged he kicked the man, named as Ali Jan, off a small cliff, leaving him badly injured. Troops then reportedly decided to “put him out of his misery” by shooting him dead.

The soldiers involved in the incidents have not been named by Fairfax, which carried out a six-month investigation into a string alleged war crimes by members of SASR.

Details of the killings emerged as Australia’s prime minister condemned troops from the same elite squadron photographed more than a decade ago flying a Nazi flag from a vehicle while on patrol in Afghanistan.

The flag was “briefly raised” above the Land Rover in 2007, the Australian Defence Forces (ADF) said in a statement. It was shown flying over the vehicle’s bonnet in a photo published by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

A broadcaster published the photograph of the red flag with a black swastika inside a white circle flying from a Land Rover Long Range Patrol Vehicle somewhere in Afghanistan in 2007.

Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull described the flag incident as “completely and utterly unacceptable” and said the soldiers involved had been disciplined.

“It was absolutely wrong, and their commanders took action at the time,” he said,

Vice-chief of the Australian Defence Force, Ray Griggs, said the flag was destroyed when the patrol returned to base and appropriate action had been taken in response.

Neil James, executive director of the Australian Defence Association, a security policy think tank, said the flag was more likely a joke than a demonstration of ideology.

Flying a red flag above a camouflaged vehicle “doesn’t make any sense from a tactical or professional point of view”, he added

But Ben Wadham, a Flinders University expert on the armed forces and a former military investigator, said the Australian army had previously had to deal with soldiers who were “Nazi sympathisers”

“Flying that flag in Afghanistan dishonours the ADF and those soldiers who fought in the Second World War,” he added.

ADF said an ongoing inquiry led by its inspector-general was investigating the conduct and culture of its special forces.

“The Afghanistan Inquiry has, for some time, been aware of allegations of significant issues involving the Special Operations Task Group in Afghanistan, which are within the scope of the inquiry,” a spokesman said.

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