British special forces may have committed war crimes during their deployment in Afghanistan. This is suggested by research by the British broadcaster BBC.

According to a BBC report, a British special forces unit may have been systematically killing unarmed people in Afghanistan. Mission reports indicate that 54 people were unlawfully shot by the SAS (Special Air Service) unit over a six-month period in 2010 and 2011.

The reason for the assumption was a pattern of “strikingly similar reports” about Afghan men who, after being captured, are said to have tried to pull weapons or grenades out from behind curtains or furniture and were then allegedly shot in self-defense, the report said.

The killings are said to have taken place as part of so-called “kill or capture raids”. These are nightly raids on people suspected of being Taliban commanders or bomb makers.

Have investigations into killings in Afghanistan been obstructed?

Unarmed men were regularly shot “in cold blood” during night raids, the BBC program “Panorama” reported, citing four years of research. The report is based on court documents, leaked emails and own research on site.

According to the BBC, the reports have sparked concern at British Special Forces headquarters over a possible deliberate strategy of illegal killings by the unit. However, they were not passed on to the military police.

A full-scale investigation into killings in Afghanistan by British military personnel was closed in 2019 without finding any criminal conduct. However, the BBC, citing unnamed military police sources, reported that the investigation was said to have been obstructed by the armed forces.

A spokesman for the British Ministry of Defense declined to give details when asked by the BBC, but said British troops in Afghanistan had served with “courage and professionalism”. He added: “No new evidence has been presented, but the military police will investigate any allegations should new evidence come to light.”