Australian special forces troops under investigation for cutting off hands of dead Afghan insurgent
Exclusive by national defence correspondent Michael Brissenden
Updated 13 minutes ago
A unit of elite Australian special forces troops is under investigation for mutilating the body of at least one Afghan insurgent.
The ABC understands the hands were removed from an insurgent’s corpse and taken back to the Australian base at Tarin Kot.
The incident occurred during a combined operation of the Afghan national security force and an Australian Special Operations Task Group force in Zabul province on April 28 that resulted in the killing of four insurgents.
At the time, the Australian Defence Force announced only that an investigation was underway.
Special forces troops under investigation for mutilating insurgent’s body
ABC understands soldiers accused of cutting off insurgent’s hands for fingerprints
Occurred during combined operation in Zabul on April 28, when four insurgents were killed
Mutilation of bodies of the dead is a violation of the laws of war
ADF says it continues to investigate an incident of potential misconduct
The Chief of the Defence Force, General David Hurley, said in a statement released on May 8: “An incident of potential misconduct during the operation has been raised through the internal national command chain.”
The ABC understands that the detail of the misconduct he alluded to involves the removal of hands from the corpse of at least one Afghan insurgent.
Australian troops are required to collect fingerprints and eye scans of every Taliban fighter who is killed, if it is possible to do so.
The ABC has learned that an investigator from the Australian Defence Force Investigative Service (ADFIS) lectured a group of special forces soldiers and told them that it did not matter how the fingerprints were taken and that if they could chop off the hands of the dead and bring them back to base for fingerprinting, that would be acceptable.
The ABC understands at least one pair of hands was present at the Australian base in Tarin Kot.
The mutilation or mistreatment of the bodies of the dead is a violation of the laws of war.
Article 15 of the first Geneva Convention says: “At all times, and particularly after an engagement, Parties to the conflict shall, without delay, take all possible measures to search for and collect the wounded and sick, to protect them against pillage and ill-treatment, to ensure their adequate care, and to search for the dead and prevent their being despoiled.”
The intelligence team that the instructing sergeant from the investigative unit was working for has now been disbanded, but the matter is being taken extremely seriously by the ADF and by the International Security Assistance Force that has overall command of international troops in Afghanistan.
ADF continues to investigate incident of potential misconduct
In a statement to the ABC today, the ADF says it continues to investigate an incident of potential misconduct involving Australian personnel.
- Special forces unit faces allegation of misconduct in Afghanistan (theguardian.com)
- Troops accused of mutilation (theage.com.au)
- Aust troops alleged to have cut off hands (news.smh.com.au)
- Australian troops investigated in Afghanistan (metronews.ca)
- Australia investigating Afghan abuse report (aljazeera.com)
- Aussie soldiers accused of mutilation (stuff.co.nz)