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28 Feb, 2022 19:39

Ex-SAS soldier testifies to atrocities committed in Afghanistan

Soldier kicked unarmed Afghan man off cliff before ordering him shot - witness
Ex-SAS soldier testifies to atrocities committed in Afghanistan

An Australian special forces soldier has testified to atrocities committed by his comrade as part of an unfolding defamation lawsuit against several Australian media outlets. Ben Roberts-Smith allegedly kicked an unarmed, handcuffed man off a cliff before ordering his subordinates to finish him off, a former colleague listed in court records as “Person 4” revealed in court on Monday.

I saw the individual’s face strike a large rock and sustain a serious injury. It knocked out a number of his teeth including his front teeth,” the unnamed SAS fighter told a federal court after describing how Roberts-Smith allegedly kicked the unarmed man off a cliff. He ultimately ordered his underlings to drag the “severely injured” man under a tree and shoot him dead, the man testified.

The grisly execution allegedly took place in the village of Darwan on September 11, 2012 following a failed attempt to hunt down a “rogue Afghan soldier” named Hekmatullah who had supposedly killed three Australians. As the SAS came up empty-handed, they found the alleged victim, a visiting farmer named Ali Jan, and arrested him. Roberts-Smith and another servicemember manhandled him down a cliff, where he fell and hit a “large rock,” sustaining “serious facial injury,” according to Person 4.

Person 4 heard shooting and turned around to see the Afghan farmer had been killed; Roberts-Smith then allegedly asked the witness for his camera in order to photograph the dead man with a type of radio used by Afghan insurgents to communicate - a radio Person 4 claimed the farmer had not been carrying “to [his] knowledge” but had come from another man killed by Roberts-Smith previously.

The narrative emerged as Roberts-Smith has sued multiple Australian media outlets, including the Age, the Sydney Morning Herald, and the Canberra Times. The former soldier accused the media of defaming him with wrongful accusations of war crimes and other acts of wrongdoing - from bullying and domestic violence to murder.

Roberts-Smith has denied all charges. “There was no cliff…there was no kick,” he told the court last July, insisting the dead man had been an enemy “spotter” killed for legitimate reasons. Person 4, who has been challenged regarding his refusal to testify about another incident in which he was seen “standing over a dead Afghan prisoner” after another witness heard shots fired, will be cross-examined on Tuesday. 

An ongoing investigation into war crimes allegedly committed by Australian soldiers in Afghanistan, based on the Brereton report, which found enough “credible information” to implicate 25 Australian Defense Force members in the illegal killing of 39 Afghan individuals, has been delayed following the collapse of the Afghan government. While the Taliban could be reasonably expected to cooperate with such an inquiry, the reluctance of other countries to recognize the Islamic militant group as a legitimate governing body is expected to hinder the proceedings.