War crimes

Australia arrests former soldier for alleged war crimes in Afghanistan

Australia arrests former soldier for alleged war crimes in Afghanistan
Some of the 370 Australian troops bound for Afghanistan gather in Brisbane for an official farewell, Friday, 02 March 2007. The soldiers will work on reconstruction and community-based projects as part of the Australian Defence Force's Operation Slipper. EPA/DAVE HUNT AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND OUT

SYDNEY, March 20 (Reuters) - Australian authorities said on Monday they had arrested a former soldier for allegedly killing an Afghanistan civilian while deployed with the country's defence force there, in a historic change that renews focus on Canberra's record in the conflict.

The 41-year-old man is expected to be charged in an Australian court with one count of war crime murder, which carries a maximum penalty of life in jail, the Australian Federal Police said in a statement.

It is the first time such a charge will be faced by a serving or former member of the defence force under Australian law, it added.

A four-year investigation in 2020 found that Australian special forces allegedly killed 39 unarmed prisoners and civilians in Afghanistan, with senior commandos reportedly forcing junior soldiers to kill defenceless captives in order to “blood” them for combat.

Following the recommendations of the report, 19 current and former members of Australia’s military were then referred to a special investigator to determine if there was sufficient evidence to prosecute.

Australia was part of a NATO-led international force that trained Afghan security forces and fought the Taliban for two decades after Western-backed forces ousted the Islamist militants from power in 2001.

More than 39,000 Australian troops served in Afghanistan and 41 were killed.

By Renju Jose and Alasdair Pal

(Reporting by Renju Jose in Sydney; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)


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