Australia prepares to strip its SAS of medals in controversial move

A SAS soldier has vowed to “fight” claims that he and colleagues killed innocent civilians in Afghanistan.

“This is not what we do – we do not kill women and children,” the 33-year-old said last night, adding, “and we won’t be railroaded”.

His comments about the “unjust” claims follow a decision by Australia’s top general to strip seven of his country’s SAS officers of medals following unsubstantiated war crime claims.

General Angus Campbell’s recommendation will see the seven officers stripped of their Dis­­tinguished Service Cross medals if supported by Australian Defence Minister Richard Marles.

It holds striking parallels to the fate awaiting British Special Forces soldiers following unsubstantiated claims in a BBC Panorama documentary which said it had uncovered evidence pointing to the alleged killing of 33 civilians during 11 night raids over a three-month period in 2011.

Last December, the Ministry of Defence announced it would investigate allegations of wrongdoing during 2010 to 2013.

The Australian claims revolve around the alleged “execution” of Taliban suspects on kill-or-capture lists.

Of more than 140 Australian SAS soldiers who served in Afghanistan, only one man, Oliver Schulz, 41, has been arrested and charged with war crimes. He was given bail in March this year.

Last night the head of Australia’s Special Air Service Association said Britain would be “foolish” to ­follow Australia’s example, adding the “entire process has been bungled by the Chief of the Defence Force from the very beginning”.

He said journalists and academics interviewed soldiers instead of “security qualified historians”, meaning information got out “which is not completely informed”.

“And General Campbell then published a report, attributing every­thing in it as true despite the accused not having been interviewed.”

“The irony is that Gen Campbell was the senior Australian commander in Afghanistan when these alleged crimes took place.”

Speaking last night, one former British SAS soldier, who is a target of the inquiry, remained defiant.

He said: “The SAS do not kill innocent members of the public. I am confident these allegations will be proved false.”

He added that “comrades” in Australia are being “publicly humiliated without any guilt being established”.

The former soldier said: “This is very worrying.”

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