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Afghan killings by UK SAS to be probed

Claims UK SAS troops killed Afghan detainees will be "investigated fully", a defence minister says. Photo: EPA
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Allegations that British SAS troops killed detainees in Afghanistan will not be “buried” and will be “investigated fully” if the new evidence is handed over by the BBC, a defence minister says.

Responding to an urgent question in the Commons on new allegations concerning British Special Forces in Afghanistan, James Heappey said the Ministry of Defence (MoD) would not “rule out” any kind of investigation into the claims.

Labour argued an independent investigation into the allegations would “secure justice for any of those affected” and, above all, would “protect the reputation of our British Special Forces”.

According to BBC Panorama, British Special Forces soldiers allegedly killed detainees and unarmed men in suspicious circumstances during counter-insurgency operations in Afghanistan.

The Panorama investigation reportedly uncovered 54 suspicious killings carried out by one British SAS unit on a six-month tour of Afghanistan in 2010-11.

Heappey said it was his understanding that the “allegedly criminal events referred to in the Panorama program have been fully investigated by the service police” but stressed that the MoD remained “fully committed to any further reviews from investigations where new evidence or reason to do so is presented”.

He told the Commons that the Royal Military Police (RMP) and BBC were in discussions about Panorama handing over any new evidence.

He said: “A decision to investigate the allegations of criminality is for the service police. They provide an independent and impartial investigative capability, free from improper interference.

“Earlier this week, the Royal Military Police wrote to the production team of Panorama to request that any new evidence be provided to them … I understand that the BBC has responded to question the legal basis on which the RMP are requesting that new evidence, which makes little sense to me, but the RMP and the BBC are in discussions.”

Shadow defence secretary John Healey said similar allegations against Australian special forces had been subject to an independent investigation, asking: “Will the Government now do the same?

“To investigate these claims and any cover-ups in the chain of command, to secure justice for any of those affected, and above all to protect the reputation of our British Special Forces?”

The defence minister said the allegations “won’t be buried”, adding: “That does no service to our armed forces whatsoever. They will be investigated fully if the new evidence is handed over.”

-PA