Afghanistan: UK special forces 'repeatedly executed detainees and unarmed men'

Afghanistan: UK special forces 'repeatedly executed detainees and unarmed men'
A bombshell investigation by the BBC has claimed that UK special forces routinely killed 'detainees and unarmed men' during their deployment in Afghanistan.
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Senior army officers were concerned about the special force's activities at the time, said the investigation [source: Getty]

UK forces in Afghanistan repeatedly killed unarmed men in what senior officers suspected were “unlawful” attacks, according to an explosive BBC investigation. 

After examining a series of "kill or capture" raids carried out by SAS special forces operatives over a six-month period during their deployment in Helmand in 2010 to 2011, the UK news organisation found multiple examples of mass executions in suspicious circumstances. 

Afghan detainees were serially executed for allegedly pulling out weapons after their capture, an unusual tactic not reported by other UK forces in the country.

There was also evidence of raids where the weapons available to Afghans were far outmatched by the number of "Enemies Killed in Action" - suggesting that a deliberate policy was implemented to execute as many people as possible, with or without justification. 

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"Too many people were being killed on night raids and the explanations didn't make sense," said one senior unnamed officer who worked with UK special forces told the BBC

The officer added that there was "real concern" at the time over the activities of the SAS operatives. 

"Once somebody is detained, they shouldn't end up dead. For it to happen over and over again was causing alarm at HQ. It was clear at the time something was wrong," they said. 

As concerns grew, senior army leadership instigated a rare formal review around 2011. 

However, the special forces officer sent to Afghanistan didn’t visit any of the scenes of the raids or interview witnesses outside the military, reported the BBC. They ended up taking the SAS version of events. 

An investigation was later carried out by the Royal Military Police into one raid conducted on a follow-up tour in 2012.

The special forces director General Carleton-Smith did not disclose evidence of previous alleged unlawful killings, or the existence of the tactical review, said the UK news organisation.  

The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) refuted the BBC’s reporting on Twitter on Monday, saying the journalists jumped to “unjustified conclusions from allegations that have already been fully investigated”. 

The MoD said two Service Police operations had carried out “extensive” investigations and neither had found “sufficient evidence” to prosecute. 

British troops were first sent to Afghanistan in 2001 as part of a response to the 9/11 attacks in the US.

UK forces targetted those they believed were members of the Taliban and later stayed to help set up a transitional government. 

After the withdrawal of British and other foreign troops from Afghanistan last year, the Taliban swiftly seized power, the economy collapsed and millions of people were plunged into poverty.