Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has criticised a group of soldiers who flew a Nazi swastika flag over their military jeep during an operation in Afghanistan in 2007.
A photo obtained by national broadcaster ABC shows the flag raised above the vehicle, where it is understood to have remained briefly before a commanding officer ordered it be taken down.
Turnball said the incident was “completely and utterly unacceptable.”
“It was absolutely wrong and the commanders took action at the time,” he said, explaining that the flag was removed and “the personnel involved were disciplined.”
A defence department spokesperson told ABC it rejected “as abhorrent everything this flag represents”, while a defence source said it was a “twisted joke” rather than an expression of genuine neo-Nazism.
The emergence of the image comes amid increased scrutiny of Australia’s special forces in Afghanistan.
Australian special forces were accused of committing war crimes in the country in a secret defence report obtained by local media last week that described a “complete lack of accountability” from top officials.
In recent days, the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper has published reports alleging Australian troops mistreated and executed prisoners in 2009 and 2012, while the ABC has previously reported on an alleged cover-up of the killing of an Afghan boy.
Australia has had troops in Afghanistan for 17 years fighting against the Taliban and other Islamist militants.
Australia’s defence department said the allegations are “serious” and under investigation.