UK Special Air Service (SAS) personnel have allegedly executed detainees and unarmed people in «suspicious circumstances» in Afghanistan, according to an investigation published Tuesday by the BBC.
The investigation, which is based on military documents, indicates that a unit of the SAS, made up of members of the special forces, executed 54 people over a period of six months, without senior officers with knowledge of what happened presenting evidence for the opening of murder investigations.
Thus, it has indicated that Mark Carleton-Smith, former head of the UK Special Forces, was informed of these incidents but did not hand over the evidence to the Royal Military Police, even after the latter opened an investigation against an SAS squadron.
Carleton-Smith, who subsequently became head of the Army before his resignation in June, has declined to comment, while the Ministry of Defense has stressed that British troops «served bravely and professionally in Afghanistan.»
The said British channel has highlighted that it analyzed hundreds of pages of operational documents, including more than a dozen raids carried out by an SAS squadron in Helmand province between 2010 and 2011.
It has also stated that several people who served in this squad have claimed that they witnessed the killing of unarmed people by these operatives and the subsequent planting of weapons to justify these acts and present the victims as militiamen.
These people have pointed out in statements to the BBC that some SAS squads competed to see which one achieved the most kills, with the particular case of the one under investigation trying to outdo the previous one it had replaced.
The investigation shows that there are internal emails that suggest that members of the higher echelons were aware of concerns about possible executions, although they did not notify the Military Police of these cases, which is required by law.
The BBC itself and the ‘Sunday Times’ newspaper investigated in 2019 an SAS raid that led to a case in the British courts and an order for the Ministry of Defense to publish documents on how the authorities dealt with the case.
The new investigation looks at reports revealing a «similar pattern» of people reportedly being killed after pulling assault rifles or hand grenades out from behind curtains and furniture after being arrested, a fact presented by special forces as the reason for death.
In this sense, he stressed that the total number of deaths during the six months of operations of this SAS squadron exceeded one hundred, with no reports of injuries among the SAS ranks.
A senior officer who worked at the British Special Forces headquarters has pointed to a «real concern» about these reports and argued that «too many people were dying in night raids, with no explanations that made sense».
«Once a person is detained, they should not end up dead. That this happens over and over again caused alarm at headquarters. It was clear at the time that something was wrong,» he has recounted on condition of anonymity.
Emails accessed by the BBC show that several officers reacted with disbelief to the reports and even spoke of «the ultimate massacre» of the squadron. As concerns mounted, one senior officer warned in a secret memo of the possible existence of «a deliberate policy» of executions during operations.
Eventually, a rare formal review of the squadron’s operations was conducted, although the officer sent to Afghanistan to interview the operatives accepted the members’ version, although this resulted in a classified document on these cases.
The squadron was redeployed to Afghanistan in 2012, without Carleton-Smith informing the Military Police of existing concerns or tactical review after the Military Police opened a murder investigation in 2013 into one of the raids during this latest deployment.
The Military Police launched Operation ‘Northmoor’ in 2014, an investigation that addressed 600 alleged violations committed by British forces in Afghanistan, including killings by the SAS squadron, although several investigators have alleged that they suffered obstruction by the Army.
The inquiries were closed in 2019 and the Ministry of Defense argued that no evidence of criminal acts had been found, something questioned by members of the investigative team, as reported by the BBC.
DEFENSE CRITICISM OF THE BBC The Ministry of Defense of the United Kingdom has questioned, in the framework of the investigation, a BBC report scheduled for Tuesday on these possible war crimes perpetrated by British military in Afghanistan on the grounds that it «puts at risk» the reputation of the «brave» personnel who were deployed there for years.
The episode of the BBC Panorama program in question is scheduled for Tuesday, June 12, and addresses the allegations made against the British Army’s special forces team.
«No investigation found sufficient evidence to prosecute. To imply otherwise is irresponsible, incorrect and puts our brave Armed Forces personnel both in the field and their reputations at risk,» the Ministry of Defense has protested in a series of messages on Twitter.
Thus, the MoD considers that the episode will offer «unjustified conclusions» on allegations that «have already been thoroughly investigated», in reference to a series of night raids carried out by the Special Air Service (SAS) in which hundreds of people would have died.
«A thorough and independent investigation was carried out into these allegations,» insists the Ministry of Defense, which leaves the door open «to consider any new evidence.»
«We will always investigate allegations to the fullest extent, but our Police and independent prosecutors can only act on the evidence before them,» Defense has settled in the string of messages posted on Twitter.