SYDNEY - A four-year inquiry into Australian special forces in Afghanistan has found "credible evidence" of the "murder" of 39 prisoners, farmers or other civilians. Australian Defense Force Chief Angus Campbell released the final report Thursday.
Nineteen Australian soldiers are suspected of executing 39 Afghan prisoners and civilians between 2005 and 2016. The war crimes report found junior soldiers were encouraged to shoot prisoners to get their first kill. Army commanders were condemned for allowing "criminal behavior" to be "conceived, committed ... and concealed."
The inquiry was conducted by the inspector general of the Australian Defense Force. Over four years, it examined 57 incidents of alleged misconduct and heard from hundreds of witnesses. It found that none of the alleged crimes could be discounted as "disputable decisions made under pressure in the heat of battle."
Australian Defense Force chief Angus Campbell said the report has uncovered a "shameful record" of a "warrior culture" by some troops.
"Today the Australian Defense Force is rightly held to account for allegations of grave misconduct by some members of our special forces community on operations in Afghanistan," he said. "To the people of Afghanistan on behalf of the Australian Defense Force, I sincerely and unreservedly apologize for any wrongdoing by Australian soldiers, and to the people of Australia I am sincerely sorry for any wrongdoing by members of the Australian Defense Force."
The war crimes report published Thursday is heavily redacted. The full classified document will remain secret. Its allegations will be investigated by Australian police and federal prosecutors.
Prime minister Scott Morrison has said previously that Australia had to confront "brutal" truths about the actions of some of its soldiers.