Australian forces killed unarmed Afghan civilians, rights body says
Findings by Afghanistan's Independent Human Rights Commission are contrary to claims that exonerated soldier responsible
Afghanistan's leading human rights body has alleged that two Afghan civilians killed by Australian forces were both unarmed, contrary to claims that led to the soldier responsible exonerated by a military investigation.
The killing of Bismillah Jan Acadi and his son Sadiqullah, 6, by Australian Special Air Service Regiment (SAS) soldiers in 2013 was originally exposed by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) two years ago in their "Afghan Files" report, which has become the subject of a controversial Australian police investigation.
The report said the farmer and his son were sleeping in their village of Ala Balogh on the fringes of Tarin Kot, Uruzgan, when the raid began.
The soldiers were cleared by a military investigation, after the SAS trooper who shot the father and son told the inquiry Bismillah pointed a gun at him.
In June this year, shortly after the government was re-elected, the Australian Federal Police raided the Sydney headquarters of the ABC and seized documents related to the Afghan Files, acting on a warrant against reporter Dan Oakes, producer Sam Clark, and director of news Gaven Morris.
Now more than 90 files from Afghanistan's Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) have been acquired by the ABC, including one report that contradicts the soldier’s version of the killing of Bismillah and Sadiqullah.
The AIHRC report states the target of the Australian-Afghan army raid was Taliban commander, Mula Sardar, who was captured and detained for six months.
The file states that “foreign soldiers climbed onto the roof of Mula Sardar's neighbour's house. Some soldiers entered the house, at this point one of the foreign soldiers shot and killed both Bismillah Jan… and his six-years-old son Sadiqullah while asleep under a blanket on the veranda”.
Bismillah’s cousin and neighbour, Mohammad Masoom, told the AIHRC the pair were asleep.
A spokesperson for the Australian Defence Department told The National that the Inspector-General of the Australian Defence Force is conducting “an independent inquiry to determine whether there is any substance to allegations and rumours relating to possible breaches of the Law of Armed Conflict by members of the Australian Defence Force in Afghanistan over the period 2005 to 2016”.
“It is not appropriate for Defence to comment further,” they said.
One of Bismillah’s sons, Esmat Khan, told the ABC: “As soon as they came, they shot them. They didn't ask him anything… His body was riddled with shots like a colander.”
The head of the AIHRC, Shaharzad Akbar, told the ABC that Bismillah "was not in any way attacking the Australian forces… He was not a threat. He was a civilian”.
Senator Richard Di Natale, leader of the Australian Greens political party, told The National the allegations were “shocking and deeply disturbing”, and criticised the government for taking action against the journalists who exposed the killings.
“Allegations that Australian SAS soldiers killed innocent civilians as they slept in their own home and attempted to cover up these killings are shocking and deeply disturbing,” he said.
“Our Government should be devoting more of its energy to uncovering the truth of this terrible incident and less raiding news agencies like the ABC for reporting on them.”
A spokesperson for the main opposition party told The National the reports are "obviously concerning".
"Labor understands the Inspector General of the Australian Defence Force is investigating several incidents in Afghanistan including this one. It is important that the IGADF investigation is allowed to run its course and it would be inappropriate to comment at this time," they said.
Updated: October 23, 2019 04:57 AM