UK begins inquiry into alleged SAS extrajudicial killings in Afghanistan

Lord Justice Haddon-Cave issues call for evidence, saying it is critical law-breakers be referred to authorities

A judge investigating allegations of more than 50 summary killings by SAS soldiers in Afghanistan has issued a call for anyone with evidence to come forward, saying it was critical that law-breakers be referred to authorities.

Launching his independent inquiry, Lord Justice Haddon-Cave said he was “very hopeful” there would be “full cooperation” with his work, which he said was ultimately about restoring the reputation of the military and “moral authority”.

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‘Path of error and danger’: China angry and confused over Aukus deal

Deal is designed to counter perceived threat from Beijing but analysts in China say it could push region closer to conflict

When the UK, the US and Australia announced the details of their multibillion-dollar deal to provide Australia with nuclear-powered submarines on Monday, the reaction in China was both outrage and confusion.

The allies were “walking further and further down the path of error and danger”, said Wang Wenbin, China’s foreign ministry spokesperson, on Tuesday. The Chinese mission to the UN accused the three countries of fuelling an arms race.

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What is the Aukus submarine deal and what does it mean? – the key facts

The four-phase plan has made nuclear arms control experts nervous … here’s why

In a tripartite deal with the US and the UK, Australia has unveiled a plan to acquire a fleet of up to eight nuclear-powered submarines, forecast to cost up to $368bn between now and the mid-2050s. Australia will spend $9bn over the next four years.

From this year Australian military and civilian personnel will embed with US and UK navies, including within both countries’ submarine industrial bases. From 2027 the UK and the US plan to rotate their nuclear-powered submarines through HMAS Stirling near Perth as part of a push to step up training of Australians.

Embedded personnel and port visits: Australian military and civilian personnel will embed with the the allies’ navies. US nuclear-powered submarines will increase their visits to Australian ports, with Australian sailors joining US crews for training.

Submarine rotations: From 2027 the UK and the US plan to rotate one UK Astute class submarine and up to four US Virginia class submarines through HMAS Stirling.

Sale of US Virginia-class submarines: From the early 2030s – pending approval by Congress – the US intends to sell Australia three Virginia-class submarines, with a potential option for two more if required.

SSN-Aukus: A combination of UK submarine design and US defence technology will contribute to the development of the new SSN-Aukus submarine – intended as the future attack submarine for both the UK and Australia. Both Australia and the UK intend to start building SSN-Aukus submarines in their domestic shipyards before the end of this decade. The first such boat may enter into UK service in the late 2030s, but the Australian navy will receive its first Australian-built SSN-Aukus submarine in the early 2040s.

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Size of UK’s nuclear submarine fleet could double under Aukus plans

First of new vessels expected to be seaworthy by the end of 2030s, with Australia receiving theirs in early 2040s

The UK’s nuclear-powered submarine fleet could double in size as plans were revealed for the new “Aukus” vessels to be based on a British design.

In a bid to counter the growing threat from China, the UK’s prime minister, Rishi Sunak, vowed alongside his US and Australian counterparts to stand “shoulder to shoulder” to protect peace in the Indo-Pacific given its implications for security across the world.

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Veteran who lost both legs in Afghanistan plans Everest summit bid

Hari Budha Magar, a former Gurkha, hopes to be first ever double above-the-knee amputee to scale mountain

A former Gurkha who lost both of his legs serving with the British army in Afghanistan hopes to become the first double above-the-knee (DAK) amputee to scale Everest this summer.

Hari Budha Magar, who was “suicidal” after being medically discharged from the Royal Gurkha Regiment in 2010, is working with an all-Nepali team to attempt to conquer the world’s highest mountain in May.

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Thousands of Afghans who helped British forces ‘remain stranded by UK’

Damning report by MPs urges government to ensure safe passage for interpreters and contractors at risk from Taliban

Several thousand Afghans who helped British forces before the withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2021 remain stranded and at risk from the Taliban because of failures of the government’s settlement schemes, according to a damning report by MPs.

The defence select committee’s report urged the government to set out what action it is taking to ensure safe passage to the UK for at least 4,600 Afghans, including interpreters and contractors, who worked for UK forces.

A lack of preparedness for the number of potential applicants resulting in under-resourcing, backlogs in applications, and errors in decision making.

Poor communications with applicants causing stress to them and increasing correspondence to MPs and others.

Unclear and frequently changing eligibility criteria.

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If Harry sounds callous about killing, he is. All of us who served were – at least he knows why | Joe Glenton

The prince’s comments about Afghan war deaths have caused a furore, but he was a decent officer, I’m told, and much of what he says is true

As a former soldier, I’ve followed Prince Harry’s career with a mix of ironic and genuine interest. We served at similar times and in the same war. Friends who worked alongside him in the Household Cavalry and Army Air Corps reflect that he was a decent, rather laddish officer who did his job – which is about the highest accolade available to anyone who went to Sandhurst.

I’m an avowed republican and make no secret of it. I was a republican when I took the oath to the monarch required to join the military and I’ve never wavered from that first political commitment. The army was a refuge from drudgery, not an expression of my politics. What I have gleaned from Harry over the years is that The Mob – the army he was preordained to join – may have ended up as a sort of refuge for him too: in his case as a shield from the withering press scrutiny that seems to have shaped his life, rather than from cycles of precarious work and poverty.

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Army veterans criticise Prince Harry’s claim he killed 25 Taliban in Afghanistan

Col Tim Collins says ‘we don’t do notches on rifle butt’ and kill-count talk could increase Harry’s personal security risk

High-profile British veterans have criticised the Duke of Sussex’s claim he had killed 25 Taliban soldiers while serving with the British army in Afghanistan and warned the high-profile admission could increase the risk to his personal security.

The retired army veteran Col Tim Collins, best known for delivering a rousing speech before the start of the Iraq war in 2003, said the prince’s kill-count talk was crass and “we don’t do notches on the rifle butt”.

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Inquiry launched into claims SAS soldiers killed Afghan civilians

MoD concedes to longstanding demands for statutory inquiry into allegations dating back to 2010

Ministers have announced a statutory judge-led inquiry into allegations of more than 50 summary killings by SAS soldiers in Afghanistan, a decision made after years of reports that elite British troops killed civilians in cold blood.

In a statement to the House of Commons, Andrew Murrison, the minister for defence people, said the Ministry of Defence (MoD) would concede to longstanding demands for an “independent statutory inquiry” after years of dismissing the idea. The inquiry will cover the period from mid-2010 to mid-2013.

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‘Political pressure’ claims in inquiry into alleged SAS killings of Afghans

Emails disclosed by lawyers for two families of victims suggested police told to ignore role of senior officers

“Political pressure” was applied in 2016 to narrow the focus of a military police investigation into allegations of summary killings by SAS soldiers in Afghanistan, according to a legal claim made in the high court on Tuesday.

An email disclosed to lawyers representing two families of Afghans killed by the SAS showed that the second in charge of the unit investigating the alleged war crimes, had told colleagues about demands being made from higher up.

An SAS officer, discussing the Saifullah family case in an email dated May 2011, asked whether there was an opportunity “to ‘nip’ this allegation before it becomes an official allegation and is fed into either the national or Isaf chain of commands in Kabul, attracting lots of scrutiny”.

Concern about the SAS tactics, techniques and procedures in Afghanistan were raised in 2011 by an external organisation, whose identity the MoD wants to keep secret, which warned that the British soldiers were using unlawful techniques to kill Afghans in cold blood.

Neil Sheldon QC, for the MoD, told the court that the government wanted disclosure of the organisation’s full evidence and name to be prevented by a public interest immunity certificate. The application, he said, was being made on “international relations grounds”.

The chief MoD lawyer acknowledged in an email sent in the run up to a previous hearing in early 2020 that the SAS explanations for the summary killings in 2011 “appear highly questionable, if not implausible, not helped by the practice of post-mission ‘cut and paste’ statements” and that the MoD should “review all incidents involving fatalities”.

His deputy suggested in another email that the UK should investigate “the conduct” of UK armed forces in Afghanistan and “the investigative and prosecutorial response of the RMP [Royal Military Police] and the SPA [Service Prosecuting Authority]”.

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MoD considers review after Panorama’s SAS death squad claims

Inquiry not being ruled out after BBC reports on 54 allegedly suspicious killings by SAS unit in Afghanistan

A UK defence minister has hinted that the government is considering a further inquiry or review of a pattern of 54 allegedly suspicious killings by SAS soldiers in Afghanistan, reported in a BBC Panorama programme earlier this week.

James Heappey told MPs on Thursday morning that the defence secretary, Ben Wallace, “rules nothing out”, and that “he’ll be back in touch with the House very shortly to say how he thinks this might be further reviewed”.

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Tamil refugees detained by UK on Chagos islands go on hunger strike

The 42 hunger strikers are part of group of 89 Sri Lankans whose boat was intercepted in Indian Ocean by British military

Dozens of Sri Lankan Tamil refugees who have been detained for over seven months in a military base on an overseas territory claimed by Britain have gone on hunger strike in despair at their plight.

The 42 hunger strikers are part of a group of 89 Sri Lankans, including 20 children, whose boat was intercepted and escorted to Diego Garcia in the middle of the Indian Ocean by the British military after running into distress while apparently headed to Canada from India in October last year.

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UK and France take part in huge naval exercise to counter ‘emerging threats’

Top French commander cites ‘rapid rearmament’ of China and Russia as danger to maritime security

France’s most senior naval commander has said future conflicts are likely to be fought at sea and in the cybersphere, citing the “rapid rearmament” of countries such as China as a potential threat.

Adm Pierre Vandier made his comments after the French Marine Nationale and forces from five allied countries, including the UK, took part in what he described as a unique two-week exercise intended to prepare for “composite threats”.

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As China threat rises, can Aukus alliance recover from rancorous birth?

Questions mount about pact’s ultimate purpose and implications for other Asean countries

It was initially seen as an audacious enlistment by Joe Biden of Australia into the 21st-century struggle against China, elevating the country in the process to a significant regional military power and finally giving substance to Global Britain and its tilt to the Indo-Pacific.

But since then the “ruckus” about Aukus, as Boris Johnson described it, has not stopped. If this was the start of a new “anti-hegemonic coalition” to balance China’s rise, it has not quite blown up on the launchpad, but nor has it taken off as smoothly as intended.

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RAF airlifts 102 people who had fled Afghanistan to UK

Flights mark first military relocation of Afghans and British nationals since end of Kabul evacuation

The RAF has airlifted more than 100 people who had left Afghanistan and were in a neighbouring third country to the UK.

The Ministry of Defence said the two flights had landed safely in the UK carrying 102 people who would receive support to begin their lives in Britain.

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