An investigation by the BBC alleges that the Special Air Service (SAS), a branch of the British special forces, killed a large number of detainees while carrying out counter-insurgency operations in Afghanistan ten years ago.
The channel claimed, based on recently acquired military records, that one SAS unit may have murdered 54 civilians in the southern Helmand province arbitrarily between 2010 and 2011.
It further claimed that the former chief of the British Special Forces was aware of the suspected deaths but failed to inform a murder investigation of the evidence.
If a commanding officer learns of possible war crimes, failing to alert the military police is a crime under the British Armed Forces Act.
Reams of SAS operational accounts, containing reports on more than a dozen “kill or capture” missions conducted by one SAS unit in Helmand in 2010–2011, were analyzed by BBC Panorama.
The unit allegedly conducted “kill or capture” missions to seize Taliban leaders and eliminate bomb-making operations.
The Ministry of Defence stated that while it was unable to comment on particular charges, it should not be seen as endorsing the veracity of those allegations.
Two independent investigations of the conduct of British forces in Afghanistan, according to the ministry, were conducted, but neither produced enough evidence to warrant criminal charges.
The report “jumps to unjustified conclusions from allegations that have already been fully investigated,” according to the Ministry of Defense.
As a part of an international coalition established by NATO in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, British forces have been stationed in Afghanistan since 2001.
Since 2006, thousands of British soldiers have been placed in Helmand to help provide security for development projects, but they were soon drawn into combat activities.
Last summer, 20 years after the first Western troops were sent to Afghanistan, the final British forces and their NATO allies withdrew from Afghanistan.