The latest: The UK Ministers have announced a statutory judge-led inquiry into allegations of more than 50 summary killings by Special Air Service (SAS), one of Britain’s elite special forces units, soldiers in Afghanistan, a decision made after years of reports that elite British troops killed civilians in cold blood.
- The independent statutory inquiry, commissioned by UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace under the 2005 Inquiries Act, is to start in early 2023, UK defence minister Dr Andrew Murrison announced in the House of Commons.
- The Afghanistan inquiry will also focus on the “adequacy of subsequent investigations” by the UK MoD into allegations of wrongdoing including murder.
- Wallace said in a statement, “While there have been several comprehensive investigations into the events in question, if there are further lessons to learn it is right that we consider those fully to ensure all allegations are handled appropriately and in equal measure to ensure our personnel are adequately protected from unnecessary reinvestigations.”
- Defence minister Andrew Murrison said the inquiry would have statutory powers to compel witnesses to give evidence.
- The government previously said a review would only examine the way the allegations had been handled.
- He said the inquiry would look specifically at special forces raids known as Deliberate Detention Operations (DDOs) which took place between mid-2010 and mid-2013.
Back story: The announcement follows allegations that 54 Afghans were killed in suspicious circumstances by one SAS unit in Helmand province between 2010 and 2011, and accusations that this amounted to war crimes.
- Allegedly, Afghan men detained on SAS night raids were often separated from their families and shot dead after they were said to have unexpectedly produced a hand grenade or an AK47 rifle.
- It has also been alleged that special forces raided a family home in Afghanistan in 2012, killing two young parents and wounding their young sons, but failed to refer the incident to military police and it was not investigated until now.
- Earlier in the year, the BBC said its investigation found SAS members had repeatedly killed detainees and unarmed men in “suspicious circumstances”.
Zoom out: Bereaved families welcomed the “unprecedented” probe into alleged unlawful activity by UK armed forces during deliberate detention operations in the war-torn nation between 2010 and 2013.
- The Royal Military Police (RMP), which investigates misconduct by the Armed Forces, undertook several investigations between 2010 and 2019 into allegations that UK Special Forces murdered unarmed people, including children, in Afghanistan. The Ministry of Defence said the investigations had not found enough evidence to prosecute anyone.
- But documents cited in court earlier this year revealed there were significant concerns within the Armed Forces that a number of the RMP investigations were flawed.