SYDNEY, Australia: Human rights reports leaked revealed that some Australian special forces killed an unarmed farmer and his child during a controversial raid in Afghanistan’s Uruzgan province.
In 2017, farmer Bismillah Jan Azadi and his young son Sadiqullah were shot and killed by Special Air Service Regiment (SAS) troopers in September 2013.
The report said they were sleeping in their village of Ala Balogh on the outskirts of the Uruzgan capital Tarin Kot when the Australian raid began.
The SAS troopers were later cleared by a military investigation, after the soldier who shot the pair told the inquiry Bismillah had pointed a pistol at him.
Afghanistan’s top human rights official has contradicted this, saying her organisation’s investigation determined that the man was an unarmed civilian.
The Afghan Files series is now the subject of a controversial Australian Federal Police (AFP) investigation.
In June, AFP officers raided the ABC’s Sydney headquarters and seized documents, acting on a warrant that named reporter Dan Oakes, producer Sam Clark and ABC director of news Gaven Morris.
Now the ABC has obtained more than 90 files from Afghanistan’s Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC), one of which is a report into the killing of Bismillah and his son.
The AIHRC is Afghanistan’s national human rights agency, established under the country’s constitution, which has the power to investigate allegations of human rights abuses.
The files obtained by the ABC cover 2010 to 2013 and include investigation reports, witness testimonies, photographs, detention records and civilian casualty logs.
“Our colleagues visit sites where the reported abuse has happened, they engage with victims, they engage with other eyewitnesses, they engage with authorities, they visit hospitals, so it is a very thorough methodology,” said AIHRC chair Shaharzad Akbar.
The files reveal Bismillah’s family made a detailed complaint to the commission about the killing, alleging it was completely unwarranted and that the farmer did not own a pistol.
The AIHRC report of the incident states the target of the joint Australian-Afghan army raid was a Taliban commander called Mula Sardar, who was captured in the night operation.
“During this time, some foreign soldiers climbed onto the roof of Mula Sardar’s neighbour’s house,” the AIHRC file states.
“Some soldiers entered the house, at this point, one of the foreign soldiers shot and killed both Bismillah Jan, 35 … and his six-year-old son Sadiqullah while [they were] asleep under a blanket on the veranda.”
The file includes testimony from Bismillah’s cousin and neighbour Mohammad Masoom, who reported that he found the man and his son “killed under the blanket [which] had bullet holes and they were bleeding out [of] the blanket.”
“[The] child was also killed lying in his father’s arms. The wounds on his stomach were plastered and needles were left on his chest — probably it was to treat him,” Mohammad told AIHRC investigators.
Mohammad says some of the foreign troops then searched the family home.
The ABC tracked down another of Bismillah’s sons, Esmat Khan, in Ala Balogh village.
He confirmed in a recorded interview that his father and brother were asleep on the verandah when the Australians and their Afghan allies arrived.
“As soon as they came, they shot them. They didn’t ask him anything,” Esmat said.
“His body was riddled with shots like a colander … they had shot him in the head, on his sides. They had killed my brother in that manner also, he was shot a lot.”
Esmat, who was inside the house while his father and brother were shot, says he was stopped from going to them until after the Australians had searched the family home and left.
“There were boot marks on [my father’s] shoulder,” he told an Afghan journalist working for the ABC in a recorded interview.
Esmat backed Mohammad Masoom’s witness account, recorded in the Afghan human rights files, that there appeared to have been attempts by the Australians to try to treat his six-year-old brother’s wounds.
Esmat rejected Australian special forces claims that his father was armed. “He was a farmer. He hadn’t seen a gun … he was deep asleep when he was shot dead,” he said.