Defence inquiry calls for information about conduct of Australian soldiers in Afghanistan

Defence inquiry calls for information about conduct of Australian soldiers in Afghanistan

Defence inquiry calls for information about conduct of Australian soldiers in Afghanistan

Updated 1 September 2017, 12:35 AEST

A secretive Defence inquiry established to investigate the conduct of Australian soldiers in Afghanistan makes a rare public appeal for information.

A secretive Defence inquiry established to investigate the conduct of Australian soldiers in Afghanistan has made a rare public appeal for information.

In July the ABC revealed that the Inspector General of the Australian Defence Force was investigating the killing of a number of Afghan civilians by Australian soldiers, as well as allegations that Australian soldiers had covered up the death of an Afghan boy.

The inquiry began in May last year and is investigating the culture of Australia's special forces, including allegations of unlawful killings committed in Afghanistan by Australian soldiers.

The inquiry is headed by NSW Supreme Court judge and Army Reserve Major General Paul Brereton, who called on anyone with information about possible breaches of the laws of war to come forward.

"While the inquiry has already spoken to many sources, we would like to hear from anyone else who has any relevant information," Major General Brereton said.

"Whether you saw something yourself, or heard others talking about it, we would like you to contact us."

The inquiry's terms of reference refer to "rumours" about the conduct of Australian soldiers, but it is now clear it is investigating specific allegations.

They include the 2012 killing of an unarmed boy named Khan Mohammed, which was allegedly not reported up the chain of command by special forces soldiers, as well as allegations that an SAS member killed an Afghan businessman and then planted a weapon on his body.

The inquiry is also investigating the circumstances surrounding the death of a man named Bismillah Azadi and his son Sadiqullah in an Australian raid in Uruzgan province in September 2013.

An internal Defence investigation following the killings found the Australians had acted in self-defence when Bismillah pointed a pistol at them.

His young son was found hidden in blankets and gravely wounded next to his father's body. The boy died a short time later.

However, Bismillah's cousin told an Afghan journalist engaged by the ABC that the man was unarmed and not a Taliban supporter.

Major General Brereton has assured anyone with information that their identity can be protected.

"The inquiry is being conducted in private and the identity of anyone providing information can be protected and kept confidential, and arrangements can be made for information to be received face-to-face," Major General Brereton said.

At least one former soldier is known to have provided information to Major General Brereton's inquiry.

Last year an Australian commando told the ABC he was ready to go to jail for his role in what he said was the unlawful execution of a prisoner of war in Afghanistan.

Special forces sergeant Kevin Frost claimed he had helped cover up the shooting of a captive and wanted those involved — including himself — to face punishment.

Mr Frost has provided details of the alleged incident to the inquiry.