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UK to hold inquiry into killing of Afghan civilians by British Special Forces

British soldiers deployed at Kandahar air base in Helmand, Afghanistan. (File photo by Reuters)

Britain's military has announced it would launch an inquiry into reports that its Special Forces carried out dozens of extrajudicial killings in Afghanistan.

The UK Ministry of Defense (MoD) would concede to longstanding demands for an “independent statutory inquiry,” defense minister Andrew Murrison said in the House of Commons on Thursday.

BBC reported earlier this year that British elite Special Air Service (SAS) killed Afghan civilians "in cold blood".

Read more:
British forces killed 54 Afghan civilians 'in cold blood', damning report reveals

Murrison said the Afghanistan inquiry, which is to start in early 2023, will focus on alleged unlawful killings by the British Special Forces during deliberate detention operations in Afghanistan from mid-2010 to mid-2013.

It will also examine the “adequacy of subsequent investigations” by the Ministry of Defense into allegations of wrongdoing, including murder.

However, Murrison noted the inquiry will ensure that all service personnel, veterans and current and former civil servants who are asked to engage with the inquiry will be given full legal and pastoral support.

The announcement follows reports 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.

Tessa Gregory, from the UK law firm which is representing the families of the deceased, said an inquiry should have been launched years ago.

“The allegations of extrajudicial killings and cover-up are of such gravity, and the concerns expressed contemporaneously within the British and Afghan army and by a reputable international organization working on the ground in Afghanistan were so serious and so widespread, that an inquiry should have been instituted by the government years ago,” she said.

The families of eight people, including three young boys, reportedly murdered by British Special Forces in two separate operations during night raids in Afghanistan in 2011 and 2012 welcomed the inquiry, saying they waited 10 years for justice.

“Over 10 years ago, I lost two of my brothers, my young brother-in-law and a childhood friend, all boys with a life ahead of them,” one of the family members said.

“I was handcuffed, beaten and interrogated outside our family home by British soldiers.

“My relatives and friend were each shot in the head as they sat drinking tea.

“My family has waited 10 years to find out why this happened."

The family member expressed relief that “after so many years, someone is going to investigate this thoroughly”.

“We live in hope that those responsible will one day be held to account,” the family member added.

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