A four-year inquiry into the Australian Special Forces’ SAS Regiment has found that at least 39 Afghan civilians were unlawfully killed by operators in 23 different incidents.

When the Australian SAS withdrew from Uruzgan province in Afghanistan in 2015, reports began filtering out that they had been involved in several shootings of unarmed civilians or farmers. 

General Angus Campbell, the then-chief of the army, requested the inspector general of the Australian Defense Forces (IGADF) to conduct an inquiry into “unsubstantiated stories” of illegal killings, inhumane and unlawful treatment of detainees, and a sense of entitlement developed over a lengthy period of time.

The IGADF then appointed NSW Supreme Court judge and reserve Maj. Gen. Paul Brereton to conduct the inquiry. It was released, although heavily redacted, this week.

Brereton interviewed over 400 witnesses. He found 23 incidents for which there was credible evidence of a crime.

In his report, Brereton said that “a substantial indirect responsibility fell upon those in the Special Air Service regiment who embraced an unchecked ‘warrior culture’ and the clique of noncommissioned officers who propagated it.” Brereton exonerated the commissioned officers but found evidence against numerous troopers and NCOs.

The report found that in an illegal practice of “blooding,” junior operators were instructed to get their first kill by shooting prisoners. Crimes were covered up by planting weapons and other items near Afghan bodies.

Additionally, the report found that two incidents could constitute “cruel treatment” which is a war crime.