Australian forces killed unarmed Afghans: report

Australia's most senior military official said on Thursday (November 19) that there is evidence that the nation's military personnel allegedly killed 39 unarmed civilians in Afghanistan and that 19 current and former soldiers will be referred for potential criminal prosecution.

Australia has had troops in Afghanistan since 2002, as part of the U.S.-led coalition fighting the Taliban militia.

In 2016, Australia launched an inquiry into the conduct of its special forces in Afghanistan between 2005 and 2016 amid allegations by local media focusing on its unlawful killings.

General Angus John Campbell revealed the findings of the long-awaited inquiry from the Inspector General:

"The report notes the distorted culture was embraced and amplified by some experienced, charismatic and influential noncommissioned officers and their protégés who sort to fuse military excellence with ego, elitism and entitlement."

Prime Minister Scott Morrison had earlier warned that the report would include "difficult and hard news for Australians."

The report included allegations of a practice, called "blooding," where junior soldiers were ordered by senior commanders to shoot a prisoner to achieve their first kill.

After, those allegedly responsible would stage the scene with foreign weapons or equipment to make the person shot appear as an enemy killed in action.

"None were alleged to have occurred in circumstances in which the intent of the perpetrator was unclear, confused or mistaken."

Campbell apologised to Afghanistan and said those suspected of the killings will be referred to a soon-to-be appointed special investigator and that local prosecution would negate charges at the International Criminal Court at The Hague.

The Australian report recommended Canberra should compensate victims' families even without a successful prosecution.