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MELBOURNE, Australia — Australian troops unlawfully killed 39 civilians and prisoners in Afghanistan over an 11-year period, the country’s military said on Thursday, releasing the findings of a long-awaited inquiry that painted a damning portrait of a cavalier and deceitful culture in the Australian special forces.
The report, issued by the inspector general of the Australian Defense Force, recommended that 19 soldiers be referred to the police for criminal investigation and that the Australian government pay compensation to the families of the Afghan victims.
The military said that all 39 killings had taken place in circumstances that were clearly outside the “heat of battle,” including cases in which commanders had ordered junior soldiers to shoot prisoners so that they could record their first “kill.”
The Australian defense chief, Angus Campbell, called the episodes detailed in the report “deeply disturbing” and said the military “unreservedly” apologized to the Afghan people.
“Today, the Australian Defense Force is rightly held to account for allegations of grave misconduct,” he said as he announced the findings.
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