Australia to Discharge 13 Soldiers After Afghan War Crimes Probe

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Chief of the Australian Defense Force Gen. Angus Campbell
Chief of the Australian Defense Force Gen. Angus Campbell delivers the findings from the Inspector-General of the Australian Defence Force Afghanistan Inquiry, in Canberra, Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020. A shocking report into war crimes by elite Australian troops has found evidence that 25 soldiers unlawfully killed 39 Afghan prisoners, farmers and civilians. (Mick Tsikas/Pool Photo via AP)

Australia's army on Friday moved to discharge 13 soldiers following a damning report into conduct in Afghanistan that prosecutors believe may have constituted war crimes.

Army chief Rick Burr said the personnel had been served "administrative action notices," which would terminate their service in two weeks unless they successfully appealed.

A years-long investigation last week reported that Australia's elite special forces "unlawfully killed" 39 civilians and prisoners in Afghanistan, including by summary execution as part of initiation rituals.

It recommended 19 individuals be referred to Australian Federal Police, compensation be paid to the families of victims, and that the military carry out a slew of reforms.

Burr said due process must now be respected as the military looks to bring those responsible for wrongdoing to justice.

"We are all committed to learning from the inquiry and emerging from this a stronger, more capable and effective army," he said.

"Each matter and individual circumstance will be considered on a case-by-case basis."

After the September 11, 2001 attacks, more than 26,000 Australian uniformed personnel were sent to Afghanistan to fight alongside US and allied forces against the Taliban, Al-Qaeda and other Islamist groups.

Australian combat troops officially left the country in late 2013, but since then a series of often-brutal accounts have emerged about the conduct of elite special forces units.

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