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The Guardian, August 30, 2013

Australian Special forces unit faces allegation of misconduct in Afghanistan

ABC report claims elite ADF troops chopped off hands of dead insurgent after battle, possibly to collect the fingerprints

By Oliver Laughland

The Australian Defence Force is investigating allegations of misconduct directed at an elite Australian special forces unit on a combined operation in Afghanistan earlier in the year.

The ABC reports that the Australian troops on operation with Afghan forces in the southern province of Zabul removed the hands of at least one insurgent's corpse to take back to an Australian base in Tarin Kot, the capital of the neighbouring Uruzgan province.

The ADF did not confirm this part of the ABC's story, referring only to "an incident of potential misconduct".

A soldier from the Special Operations Task Group during a convoy move through Tarin Kowt, Afghanistan
A soldier from the Special Operations Task Group during a convoy move through Tarin Kowt, Afghanistan. (Photo: Paul Berry)

In a statement, it described the troops' mission that day, 28 April 2013, as a "clearance operation" targeting an "insurgent commander responsible for a key insurgent network". Australian troops were involved in a "high-intensity, complex and dangerous battle", which resulted in the death of four insurgents, it said.

The statement continued: "Following the mission, an incident of potential misconduct was raised through the ADF's internal command chain.

"The ADF, in co-operation with the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), immediately commenced an investigation into this incident when the matter was reported."

The ADF said the ISAF had informed the Afghan government of the investigation.

Earlier on Friday, Kevin Rudd was asked if he had been briefed on the investigation. He said he had "full confidence in the Australian defence force" and had "full confidence in the chief of the defence force's capacity to investigate" allegations of misconduct.

The ADF said it would not comment on the allegations until its own investigation was complete.

The ABC claims that Australian special forces were briefed to collect fingerprints and eye scans of insurgents fighters killed in combat, and that special forces troops were told that it did not matter how the fingerprints were obtained.

Category: US-NATO, HR Violations - Views: 8204