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Australian soldier who severed hands of Taliban fighter cleared of war crimes

An Australian SAS corporal has been cleared of war crimes by the country’s federal police after it emerged he cut the hands off two suspected Taliban fighters during a military operation in 2013.

The soldier was part of a joint Afghan national security service and Australian Special Operations Task Group operation to kill or capture a senior Taliban commander. The mission, in which the target was not captured, left four alleged insurgents dead.

When the soldier in question searched the bodies, he went on to sever the right hands of the dead men with a surgical scalpel.

A classified internal inquiry into the incident, which was leaked earlier this year, states:

"At this point in time patrol commander [a sergeant] … arrived at EKIA 3, and seeing the two hands on the ground, exclaimed words to the effect: 'What the f*** are you doing?'"

The mutilation of bodies is a violation of international law. The soldier claimed he was under “time pressure to retrieve the biometric material” for identification purposes.

The Australian Federal Police launched an inquiry in to the incident and have since concluded the soldier did not commit any war crimes.

An Australian Department of Defence spokesperson told SBS World News that the AFP had "formally advised Defence that its investigation into the matter is complete and it will take no further action".

"As the matter is now with the Australian Defence Force, it would be inappropriate for the AFP to comment further," an AFP spokesperson told SBS World News.

See more from SBS here and ABC here.