British special forces troops allegedly executed detainees in Afghanistan, BBC says

The network notes that senior officers failed to pass suspicions to the Military Police to investigate

The Ministry of Defense criticizes the broadcast of the report and claims that it “puts at risk” the reputation and prestige of the military

UK Special Air Service (SAS) personnel have allegedly executed detainees and unarmed people in “suspicious circumstances” in Afghanistan, according to an investigation published Tuesday by the British television network BBC.

The investigation, which is based on military documents, indicates that a unit of the SAS, composed of members of the special forces, would have executed 54 people during a period of six months, without senior officials with knowledge of what happened presented evidence for the opening of murder investigations.

Thus, it has indicated that Mark Carleton-Smith, former head of the UK Special Forces, was informed of these incidents but did not hand over the evidence to the Royal Military Police, even after this body opened an investigation against an SAS squadron.

Carleton-Smith, who subsequently became head of the Army before his resignation in June, has declined to comment, while the Ministry of Defense has stressed that British troops “served bravely and professionally in Afghanistan.”

The aforementioned British network has highlighted that it analyzed hundreds of pages of operational documents, including more than a dozen raids carried out by an SAS squadron in Helmand province between 2010 and 2011.

He has also stated that several people who served in this squad have claimed that they witnessed the killing of unarmed people at the hands of these operatives and the subsequent planting of weapons to justify these acts and portray the victims as militiamen.

These individuals have noted in statements to the BBC that some SAS squads competed to see which achieved the most kills, with the particular case of the one under investigation attempting to outdo the previous one he had replaced.

The investigation shows that there are internal emails which suggest that members of the higher echelons were aware of concerns about possible executions, although they did not notify the Military Police of these cases, which is required by law.

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The BBC itself and the ‘Sunday Times’ newspaper investigated in 2019 an SAS raid that led to a case in the British courts and an order for the Ministry of Defense to publish documents on how the authorities dealt with the case.

The new investigation contemplates reports revealing a “similar pattern” of people reportedly being killed after pulling assault rifles or hand grenades out from behind curtains and furniture after being arrested, a fact presented by special forces as the reason for death.

In this sense, he has stressed that the total number of dead during the six months of operations of this SAS squadron exceeded one hundred, with no reported wounded among the SAS ranks.

A senior officer who worked at British Special Forces headquarters has pointed to a “real concern” about these reports and argued that “too many people were dying in night raids, with no explanations that made sense.”

“Once a person is detained, they shouldn’t end up dead. That this happens over and over again caused alarm at headquarters. It was clear at the time that something was wrong,” he has recounted on condition of anonymity.

Emails accessed by the BBC show that several officers reacted with disbelief to the reports and even spoke of “the ultimate massacre” of the squadron. With concerns mounting, one senior officer warned in a secret memo of the possible existence of “a deliberate policy” of executions during operations.

Eventually, a rare formal review of the squadron’s operations was conducted, although the officer sent to Afghanistan to interview the operatives accepted the members’ version, although this resulted in a classified document on these cases.

The squadron was redeployed to Afghanistan in 2012, without Carleton-Smith informing the Military Police of existing concerns or tactical review after the Military Police opened a murder investigation in 2013 into one of the raids during this latest deployment.

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The Military Police launched Operation ‘Northmoor’ in 2014, an investigation that addressed 600 alleged violations committed by British forces in Afghanistan, including killings by the SAS squadron, although several investigators have alleged that they suffered obstruction by the Army.

The inquiries were closed in 2019 and the Ministry of Defense argued that no evidence of criminal acts had been found, something questioned by members of the investigative team, as reported by the BBC.


The UK Ministry of Defense has questioned, as part of the investigation, a BBC report scheduled for Tuesday on these possible war crimes perpetrated by British military personnel in Afghanistan on the grounds that it “puts at risk” the reputation of the “brave” personnel who were deployed there for years.

The episode of the BBC Panorama program in question is scheduled for this Tuesday, June 12, and addresses the allegations brought against the British Army’s special forces team.

“No investigation found sufficient evidence to prosecute. To imply otherwise is irresponsible, incorrect and puts our brave Armed Forces personnel both in the field and their reputations at risk,” the Ministry of Defense has protested in a series of messages on Twitter.

Thus, the MoD considers that the episode will offer “unwarranted conclusions” on allegations that “have already been thoroughly investigated”, in reference to a series of night raids carried out by the Special Air Service (SAS) in which hundreds of people would have died.

“A thorough and independent investigation was carried out into these allegations,” insists the MoD, which leaves the door open “to consider any new evidence.”

“We will always investigate allegations to the fullest extent, but our independent Police and prosecutors can only act on the evidence before them,” Defense has settled in the string of messages posted on Twitter.

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