Australian soldiers flew Nazi flag in Afghanistan

SYDNEY • Australian soldiers who flew a Nazi swastika flag over their fighting vehicle in Afghanistan more than a decade ago were "wrong" and punished at the time, Australia's Prime Minister said yesterday, after a picture of the incident emerged.

The flag was "briefly raised" above the vehicle in Afghanistan in 2007, Australia's Defence Department said.

The flag was clearly visible flying over the bonnet of a jeep in a photo published by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC).

"The flag obviously was removed and the personnel involved were disciplined," Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull told reporters in the Tasmanian state capital of Hobart, without specifying their punishment.

"It was absolutely wrong and their commanders took action at the time," he said.

"It is completely unacceptable to use a flag of this nature," Australia's Defence Minister, Ms Marise Payne, said in an e-mailed statement.

The flag was "briefly raised" above the vehicle in Afghanistan in 2007, Australia's Defence Department said.

"This is completely at odds with the values of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) and the tens of thousands of ADF personnel who have served with distinction in Afghanistan."

The flag was later destroyed and those involved cautioned, the Defence Department statement said.

Australia, a staunch US ally, has had troops in Afghanistan for 17 years fighting against the Taleban and other Islamist militants.

Their behaviour between 2005 and 2016, including accusations that they used illegal force and showed a disregard for human life during missions, is being investigated by the defence authorities.

In recent days, the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper has published reports, citing unidentified witnesses, alleging Australian troops mistreated and executed prisoners in 2009 and 2012. The ABC has previously reported on an alleged cover-up of the killing of an Afghan boy by Australian special forces.

In response to the reports, Australia's former spy chief David Irvine was appointed last week to conduct a third inquiry into the nation's special forces in two years.

Some 300 Australian defence personnel remain in Afghanistan.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 15, 2018, with the headline 'Australian soldiers flew Nazi flag in Afghanistan'. Print Edition | Subscribe