A United States Marine Corps helicopter crew chief has accused Australian special forces of shooting dead one of seven bound Afghan prisoners because there was only space for six on the US aircraft due to collect them.
The chief, “Josh”, flew 159 combat missions for the Marine Corps’ Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 469.
He told Australia's ABC Investigations he was a door gunner providing aerial covering fire for the Australian soldiers of the 2nd Commando Regiment during a night raid in mid-2012, north of his squadron’s base in Afghanistan's Helmand Province.
The raid was part of a broader joint Australian special forces-US Drug Enforcement Administration campaign targetting drug operations financing the Taliban.
Josh told the ABC: “We just watched them tackle and hogtie these guys and we knew their hands were tied behind their backs”.
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He said the Australian commandos then called for the US aircraft to pick them and seven prisoners up.
“The pilot said, 'That's too many people, we can't carry that many passengers.' And you just heard this silence and then we heard a pop. And then they said, 'OK, we have six prisoners'.”
The USMC chief said it was “apparent to everybody involved in that mission that they had just killed a prisoner that we had just watched them catch and hogtie”.
Josh told the ABC he and the other Marines “were pretty aware of what we just witnessed”.
“We just witnessed them kill a prisoner… This isn't like a heat of the moment call where you're trying to make a decision. It was a very deliberate decision to break the rules of war.”
Josh said that in an earlier mission that year another Marine witnessed Australian commandos shoot dead an unarmed man sitting on a wall nearby after they landed.
One member of 2nd Commando's Oscar platoon who served on that deployment confirmed to the ABC that the Americans were unhappy with the conduct of some of his comrades.
It is unclear if the latest allegation is being examined by the investigation into alleged Australian war crimes in Afghanistan which has been underway for several months, the findings of which are expected soon.
Josh told the ABC that the British SAS “always had an incredible restraint, at least in the times when me and my friends worked with them”.
“Everybody else would step on the lines, but the Aussies would just see the line and just hop right over it.”
An Australian Defence Force spokesperson told ABC: "It is not appropriate for Defence to comment on matters that may or may not be the subject of the Afghanistan Inquiry."