Afghans recall days when Australians unleashed dogs, gunfire

Haji Abdul Baqi has one lasting memory of Australian forces in Afghanistan, the day they killed his two brothers, Saifullah and Bismillah, and two of his cousins, Mohammadullah and Juma Khan.

It was more than nine years ago, but the chaos that ensued as soon as the Australians disembarked from their chopper near a market in the southern province of Uruzgan is still fresh in his mind.

“They entered the market with their dogs and their guns at their side,” he recalled.

The 30-year-old describes his village in Caher Cina district, as an unassuming desert that has seen little government presence over the years, but that June day, it quickly filled with the sounds of gunfire and the barks of attack dogs.

From there, they began burning down local public offices. Fearing for their lives, the people in the market sought refuge in nearby homes and the wheat fields, but it was to no avail.

The situation in their family home was no better. The Australians had destroyed the gate and unleashed their dogs on one of his dogs. When his cousin Mohammadullah entered the house, he tried to wrestle the dog from Saifullah.

“He saw the dog tearing away at my brother, but before we knew it, they were both shot dead, right there in our home.”

Abdul Baqi also blames the death of his elderly father, Haji Abdul Hakim, on the soldiers and their dogs.

“He never recovered from his wounds and died a year later. They did this to him, to my brothers and my cousins.”

Australian war crimes

The nightmare scene Abdul Baqi described through a WhatsApp call from a local internet café is ripped directly from the pages of a four-year investigation into Australian war crimes that the Defence Ministry said led to the deaths of at least 39 Afghan civilians, farmers and prisoners.

Claims of abuses by Australian special forces stationed in Afghanistan have been making the rounds online and in the media for several years now, but this week’s report, which includes abuses dating back to 2005 is the first clear admission of misdeeds by Canberra. It also marks the first time a member of the US-led coalition has publicly released such information about the misdeeds of its troops.The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) broadcaster in 2017 exposed the role of the elite Australian Special Air Service (SAS) forces in the killing of unarmed civilians and children – a potential war crime. That report led to a Federal Police raid on the broadcaster and an unsuccessful attempt to prosecute the journalist behind that initial report.

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