Australian soldiers carried around a dead Taliban fighter’s prosthetic leg as a war trophy and used it as a drinking vessel while serving in Afghanistan.
One soldier was photographed drinking out of the prosthetic leg at an unofficial bar known as the Fat Lady’s Arms in Tarin Kowt, in the Uruzgan province in 2009.
The senior special forces soldier pictured in the photo, obtained exclusively by the Guardian Australia, is reportedly still serving in the Australian Defence Force.
Another photo seen by the publication appears to show two Australian soldiers dancing with the artificial limb.
Soldiers would play high-stakes poker games and get drunk on homemade spirits at the SAS bar, despite alcohol being banned for Australian troops.
A soldier was photographed drinking out of the prosthetic leg at an unofficial bar known as the Fat Lady’s Arms in Tarin Kowt, in the Uruzgan province in 2009
Greens Senator Mehreen Faruqui condemned the ‘atrocities’ as ‘indefensible’ on Facebook.
‘We shouldn’t just oppose war crimes, we should reject the militarism and nationalism that opposes them,’ she wrote.
The war offence of pillaging carries a penalty of 20 years in jail under Section 269.81 of the commonwealth criminal code.
Until the images were published on Tuesday, rumours of the soldiers’ behaviour had never been confirmed with any form of photographic evidence.
Photos from 2009 showed the same leg mounted to a wooden board under the heading ‘Das Boot’ alongside a Nazi military decoration.
Photos from 2009 showed the same leg mounted to a wooden board under the heading ‘Das Boot’ alongside an Nazi military decoration
The fake leg is believed to have been removed from an Afghan amputee who was gunned down during a raid at Kakarak in Uruzgan in April 2009.
It was then brought back to the special forces headquarters and toted around by the squadron at all times, according to a former trooper.
‘Wherever the Fat Lady’s Arms was set up, then that’s where the leg was kept and used occasionally for drinking out of,’ he told the Guardian.
Senior ranking officers reportedly knew about the behaviour, and some even took part in it according to some soldiers.
Allegations of serious war crimes perpetrated by special forces soldiers have come to light since the release of the Brereton report last month (Pictured: soldiers step off on a patrol during the closing days of Operation Shak Haliwel in the Kakarak region of Uruzgan Province)
The images were captured in a makeshift bar which was set up and served alcohol to soldiers at their base inside Australia’s special forces base.
Allegations of serious war crimes committed by special forces soldiers have come to light since the release of the Brereton report last month.
Dr David Whetham, Professor of Ethics and the Military Profession at King’s College London, mentioned the very bar same bar from the photograph in the report.
Major General Paul Brereton’s investigation took four and a half years to scrutinise the conduct of special forces soldiers between 2005 and 2016 (pictured: special force search a village at Musazai in the Uruzgan Province in Afghanistan)
Pages upon pages of the 456 page Brereton report were redacted for security purposes (pictured) while individual words and phrases are all that is visible on other pages
‘There was supposed to be no alcohol, but there was a pub in the base – the Fat Lady’s Arms – ‘somewhere there where we can do certain stuff but we’re not going to get caught and it’s not going to be regarded as misconduct because that’s who we are and that’s what we do’,’ he wrote.
But there was no mention of the prosthetic limb or behaviour associated with it in the unredacted sections of the report.
More than 50 pages of a 456 page probe were censored for security purposes while individual words and phrases are all that is visible on other pages.
A spokesperson for the Department of Defence said it was critical all matters raised are considered carefully and appropriate actions taken in accordance with ADF processes.
‘Where there is information provided to Defence not addressed as part of the Afghanistan Inquiry, these matters will be investigated thoroughly and acted on,’ the spokesperson said.
‘It is critical that all matters are considered carefully, and any actions are undertaken according to the ADF’s longstanding and well-established processes, ensuring the rights of individuals to due process and fair hearing are protected.’
The Chief of the Army, Lieutenant General Rick Burr, said on Thursday defence officials had started the process of sacking 13 SAS soldiers since the report was published.
It exposed 39 unlawful killings, along with deceit and cover-ups by 25 current or former Australian special forces personnel.
The Chinese government also attacked Australia online since the allegations of war crimes emerged online with a doctored image on Twitter.
A fake image showed an Australian soldier holding a knife to the throat of an Afghan child.
Lijian Zhao posted the computer-generated image on Twitter on Monday, writing: ‘Shocked by murder of Afghan civilians and prisoners by Australian soldiers. We strongly condemn such acts, and call for holding them accountable.’
The gruesome image shows a smiling soldier in uniform covering a barefoot child with the Aussie flag as the youngster clutches a lamb.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison called for an apology over the ‘repugnant’ tweet.
What are the allegations against Australian SAS troops?
A four-year Australian Defence Force inquiry earlier this month reported evidence of 39 murders of civilians or prisoners by 25 Aussies serving in Afghanistan from 2009 to 2016.
These are the allegations contained the report:
Villagers running away from helicopters were known as ‘squirters’. Soldiers would open fire, killing many men and sometimes women and children as they ran away. Soldiers would then come up with an excuse, such as the squirters were running away to fetch weapons, to sanction the massacres.
After squirters were dealt with, special forces would cordon off a whole village, taking men and boys to guesthouses on the edge of town. There they would be tied up and tortured by soldiers, sometimes for days. When the special forces left, the men and boys would be found dead, either shot in the head or blindfolded with their throats slit.
In one incident, special forces were driving along a road and saw two 14-year-old boys they decided might be Taliban sympathisers. They stopped, searched the boys and slit their throats. The rest of the troop had to clean up the mess, bagging the bodies and throwing them into a nearby river. Special forces soldiers reportedly committed such unsanctioned killings in order to get a name for themselves.
Soldiers would carry weapons or equipment such as pistols or radios, ammunition or grenades to place with the bodies of people killed. Photographs would then be taken to make it seem like the target was legitimate.
Junior soldiers were required by patrol commanders to shoot a prisoner in order to notch up their first kill. Weapons would be placed with the body to conceal the unlawful killings. Cover stories would be created to deflect scrutiny, reinforced by a code of silence.
(Source: Inspector-General of the ADF Afghanistan Inquiry Report)