Australia's special forces unlawfully killed farmer and civilian prisoners for the purpose of "blooding", whereby a soldier takes a life for the first time as a rite of passage, the long-awaited report investigating war crimes has found.

The bombshell report into the conduct of Australian Special Forces Soldiers in Afghanistan between 2005 and 2016 was released on Thursday.

It said that junior soldiers had been required by their patrol commanders to shoot a prisoner, in order to achieve the soldier's first kill, in a practice that was known as "blooding".

Among the prisoners alleged to have been killed were farmers and other civilians.

The report has been released after a four-year inquiry that interviewed more than 400 witnesses and inspected thousands of documents as part of a probe into the conduct of special forces soldiers.

The report said credible evidence heard by the inquiry included that of a soldier forcing an unarmed local to the ground and shooting him in the back of the head at the direction of another soldier, despite the civilian posing no threat.

An item was then placed by the local's body, located in a remote part of the compound, to conceal the circumstances of what happened and "deceive" any future inquiry into how he died, the report said.

Afterwards a soldier went on to give a false account of the events to another soldier conducting a quick assessment of what happened.

The report found that there was credible information to substantiate 23 incidents of alleged unlawful killing of 39 people by 25 soldiers.

It found that none of the 23 incidents were "disputable decisions" which were made under the heat of battle and recommended that they be referred to the Australian Federal Police for criminal investigation.

But the inquiry did not recommend any further action be taken in regards to unsubstantiated allegations including:

• a person being struck with an AK-47 in the course of tactical questioning, in an endeavour to get information from him, rather than with a soldier's M4 in self-defence

• a knife being held to a person's testicles

• waterboarding.

More to come


Originally published as Shocking claims about recruits' 'first kill'

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