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22 Oct, 2017 14:30

British military detectives fly to Kabul over alleged SAS killings – report

British military detectives fly to Kabul over alleged SAS killings – report

Detectives from the UK military police have reportedly visited Afghanistan to interview a key witness in an ongoing investigation into alleged killings of local civilians by Britain’s elite Special Air Service (SAS).

The interview was part of Operation Northmoor, a classified Royal Military Police (RMP) investigation into reports that SAS operatives were killing unarmed civilians during night raids in Afghanistan, and tried to doctor post-action reports to shift the blame onto local soldiers.

Five RMP officers and a support team were sent to Kabul last month to interview Saifullah Yar, a key witness to an SAS raid which reportedly took place in 2011, according to the Sunday Times

Yar, now a 22-year-old farmer, was 16 when a British Special Forces team descended on his family in Helmand province. The man, questioned by RMP for three days, told the Sunday Times the troops landed from helicopters and then handcuffed him, his brother and father.

Before Yar was blindfolded he spotted his father and brother being restrained. “The soldiers told me to stay… with my family. I heard firing from heavy machine-guns. About 40 rounds were fired in two different bursts,” he said.

After the troops left the house, Yar found his father and cousin shot dead in their bedrooms. Two of his brothers were also killed, the man claimed. Yar’s family had no connections to Taliban insurgency, according to village elders cited by the newspaper.

The story comes on the heels of previous reports claiming that members of an elite SAS ‘rogue unit’ were complicit in unlawful killings of unarmed Afghan civilians suspected of being Taliban militants, executed during night raids on their homes.

In many cases, SAS soldiers allegedly tried to create the false impression that their victims were high-profile Taliban warlords in order to cover up the reported killings. Members of the “rogue unit” routinely carried Russian-made Makarov pistols commonly used by top Taliban or Al-Qaeda leaders so that they could photograph them alongside the bodies of their alleged victims, according to the Times report.

The ‘kill pistol’ was intended to make it look like the slain subject had posed a threat to SAS soldiers. An officer told the newspaper that a friend in another Special Forces unit had been offered such a “kill pistol,” but had refused to carry it.

READ MORE: Australia’s elite special forces probed over potential unlawful killings – leaked docs

In other instances, the SAS reported that the civilians had been shot dead by Afghan commandos, who often accompanied British soldiers during the raids. However, the RMP examined the bullets found in some of the victims and concluded that they were 5.56mm NATO-standard rounds, used at the time by the SAS, but not the Afghan army, which normally used 7.62mm rounds.

The British Ministry of Defence responded with a series of tight-lipped statements. Commenting on the Sunday Times story, the military said: “Where credible allegations are raised it is right they are effectively investigated by an independent police force like the Royal Military Police.”

The ministry said the Operation Northmoor has investigated more than 90% of the 675 allegations received and found “no evidence of criminal or disciplinary offence. However, the RMP is continuing to investigate a small number of allegations.”