UK announces inquiry into allegations its special forces killed Afghan civilians

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By Euronews, Reuters
 Afghans try to repair a dam on a river as seen from the British forces forward operating base Sterga II at Helmand province in southern Afghanistan, Dec. 16, 2013.
Afghans try to repair a dam on a river as seen from the British forces forward operating base Sterga II at Helmand province in southern Afghanistan, Dec. 16, 2013.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis, file

The UK will hold an independent inquiry into allegations that its special forces killed dozens of civilians in Afghanistan between mid-2010 and mid-2013, the country's Ministry of Defence announced on Thursday.

The announcement by British officials follows a July report by the BBC that alleged troops from the country's elite Special Air Service (SAS) had killed 54 people in suspicious circumstances during night raids in Afghanistan.

The official statement released by the Ministry of Defence said that it had "established an independent statutory inquiry to investigate and report on allegations of wrongdoing by British armed forces in relation to their conduction of deliberate detention operations in Afghanistan." The inquiry, led by senior judge Lord Justice Haddon-Cave, will be limited to the window of time between mid-2010 and mid-2013.

Beside determining whether the special forces were guilty of committing extrajudicial killings in Afghanistan, the inquiry will also look at the adequacy of the response to the allegations.

"The UK's armed forces rightly hold themselves to the highest possible operational standards," Junior defence minister Andrew Murrison said.

"Operations must be conducted within the clear boundaries of the law and credible allegations against our forces must always be investigated thoroughly."

Murrison told parliament on Thursday that the ministry's decision had been informed by two cases -- currently the subject of judicial reviews in Britain -- brought by families who allege their relatives were killed by the SAS in 2011 and 2012 in Afghanistan and that the circumstances were not properly investigated.

The inquiry won't be the first looking into allegations of misconduct involving the SAS and British forces in Afghanistan. But no evidence has been found so far to support claims.