Australian soldiers face dismissal after Afghanistan killings

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Australia told 13 Special Forces soldiers they face dismissal in relation to a report on alleged unlawful killings in Afghanistan, the head of the country’s army said.

An independent report published in redacted form said there was evidence 39 unarmed Afghan prisoners and civilians were killed by 19 Australian soldiers.

None of the  soldiers were identified in the report, written by a state judge appointed by the inspector-general of defence. The 19 current and former soldiers were referred for possible prosecution.

Under mounting pressure, Lieutenant General Rick Burr, the head of the Australian army, said 13 currently serving soldiers were issued with notices that could eventually lead to their termination.

Burr did not identify any of the 13 saying they were not part of the 19 current and former soldier facing possible criminal charges. He said the 13 soldiers facing dismissal have two weeks to respond to the notice.

“At this time, 13 individuals have been issued administrative action notices in relation to the Afghanistan inquiry,” Burr told reporters in Canberra.

“We are committed to learning from the inquiry and emerging from this a stronger, more capable and effective army.”

Australia’s most senior military official apologised to Afghanistan after the release of the report.

The report into the conduct of Special Forces personnel in Afghanistan between 2005 and 2016 said senior commandos may have forced junior soldiers to kill defenceless captives to “blood” them for combat.

The inquiry examined more than 20 000 documents and 25 000 images and interviewed 423 witnesses under oath.

Australia sent troops to join US-led forces that tried to defeat the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan after the Islamists were forced from power in 2001.