UK starts hearings into ‘unlawful killings’ by SAS forces in Afghanistan

An independent inquiry into allegations that British special forces carried out extra-judicial killings in Afghanistan between mid-2010 and mid-2013 began hearing evidence on Monday.

The inquiry was ordered by the UK’s defense minister in December after a BBC documentary reported that elite Special Air Services (SAS) soldiers had killed 54 people under suspicious circumstances.

Lord Justice Haddon-Cave is chairing the inquiry and said in his opening submissions on Monday: “Let there be no misunderstanding for those who have something to hide – the inquiry will use all its powers to make sure that if there is credible information of wrongdoing… no matter how senior their position, they are referred to the relevant authorities.”

At the start of the hearings, lead counsel to the inquiry, Oliver Glasgow, detailed seven separate SAS missions involving the deaths of 33 people, including a number of children.

Glasgow also told the hearing of claims that Afghanistan partner units “refused to serve with UK special forces due to their behavior”.

The inquiry heard that SAS soldiers killed nine people “in their beds” during an Afghanistan night raid.

Family members of the victims say the deceased were unarmed civilians. The SAS had however claimed they acted in self-defense.

The alleged extrajudicial killings of the nine people in Nad Ali district of Helmand province reportedly took place on the night of February 7, 2011. Glasgow told the hearing: “The family insist that all the deceased were innocent civilians, that no-one in the compound was armed and that there were no weapons present.

He said: “We anticipate the evidence from the families will be that they were shot in bed, most likely while asleep.”

The youngest who was killed was 14 years old.

The hearings, being held at the Royal Courts of Justice in London, also heard that UK special forces abused night raids in order to commit “numerous” extra-judicial killings – which were allegedly later covered up.

The inquiry is set to hear submissions on behalf of the families of 33 people, including eight under-18s, who were killed by special forces.

According to BBC, allegations of cover-ups of illegal activity and inadequate investigations by the Royal Military Police (RMP) will also be examined.