Australian commandos accused of Afghan war crimes

Soldiers from the Special Operations Task Group use their rifle scopes to investigate the surrounding mountains during an operation in southern Afghanistan in this handout photo from the Australian Department of Defence on October 2009. (Australian Department of Defence/AFP)
Updated 08 June 2018
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Australian commandos accused of Afghan war crimes

SYDNEY: Australian special forces have been accused of committing war crimes in Afghanistan in a secret defense report leaked Friday that described a “complete lack of accountability” from top military brass.
The investigation, reported by Fairfax Media, quoted unnamed special forces insiders saying some Australian troops engaged in the “unsanctioned and illegal application of violence on operations” with “a disregard for human dignity.”
The report, which Fairfax said was compiled by defense department consultant Samantha Crompvoets, concerned operations by Australian Special Air Service troops and other elite commandos deployed alongside US and allied forces in Afghanistan following the September 11, 2001, attacks.
It described a dysfunctional military organization rife with distrust of senior leaders and competition between different elite units.
“Even more concerning were allusions to behavior and practices involving abuse of drugs and alcohol, domestic violence, unsanctioned and illegal application of violence on operations... and the perception of a complete lack of accountability at times,” the report is quoted as saying.
The Defense Force declined to answer specific questions about the leaked report, but told Fairfax it was taking “all allegations about Australian Forces seriously” and would be making recommendations based on the findings of the inquiry.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop also declined to provide details as “there is an investigation underway.”
The opposition Labor party on Friday described the revelations as “deeply concerning” and said subject to national security concerns the report should be made public.
“Our soldiers, particularly our special forces, work in difficult and complex environments,” shadow minister for defense Richard Marles said in a statement.
“It’s important that we know, as a country, that they’re doing it in a professional and legal way.”
Government parliamentarian and former SAS member Andrew Hastie said the allegations “should be taken seriously.”
“We need a free media reporting on all issues that are relevant to the public interest,” he told ABC radio, declining to go into detail about the accusations.


At least 161 dead in northeast Congo in apparent ethnic clashes

Updated 11 min 30 sec ago
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At least 161 dead in northeast Congo in apparent ethnic clashes

  • A series of attacks in Ituri province has mostly targeted Hema herders, who have long been in conflict with Lendu farmers over grazing rights and political representation
  • Open conflict between Hema and Lendu from 1999-2007 resulted in an estimated 50,000 deaths in one of the bloodiest chapters of a civil war in eastern Congo

GOMA, Democratic Republic of Congo: At least 161 people have been killed in a northeastern province of Democratic Republic of Congo in the past week, local officials said on Monday, in an apparent resurgence of ethnic clashes between farming and herding communities.
A series of attacks in Ituri province has mostly targeted Hema herders, who have long been in conflict with Lendu farmers over grazing rights and political representation, although the exact identity of the assailants remains murky.
Open conflict between Hema and Lendu from 1999-2007 resulted in an estimated 50,000 deaths in one of the bloodiest chapters of a civil war in eastern Congo that left millions dead from conflict, hunger and disease.
Tit-for-tat attacks between the two groups in late 2017 and early 2018 killed hundreds of people and forced tens of thousands more to flee their homes, but a tenuous calm had taken hold until this month.
Pascal Kakoraki Baguma, a national lawmaker from Ituri, said the latest violence was sparked by the killing last Monday of four Lendu businesspeople.
“Members of the Lendu community believed that these assassinations were the work of the Hema,” Kakoraki said. “This is why they launched several attacks on Hema villages.”
“Sources affirm that 161 bodies have been found so far. But the death toll goes beyond the bodies recovered, as there were other massacres of civilians and police officers,” he said.
Jean Bosco Lalo, president of civil society organizations in Ituri, said 200 bodies had been found since last week in predominantly Hema villages, including the 161 mentioned by Kakoraki. Lalo said the toll would rise once his teams gained access to other villages where killings had been reported.
Ituri Governor Jean Bamanisa said provincial authorities were still working to establish the exact death toll and declined to say who was responsible.
He said the assailants’ tactics were to “empty out the villages, burn them and pursue those who had fled to the surrounding areas with bladed weapons.”
Congo President Felix Tshisekedi, who took office in January, is trying to restore stability to the country’s eastern borderlands, a tinderbox of conflict among armed groups over ethnicity, natural resources and political power.
Several rebel leaders have surrendered or been captured during his first months in office, but armed violence has persisted, particularly in North Kivu province, south of Ituri, which is the epicenter of a 10-month Ebola outbreak.