Five British SAS soldiers under investigation for alleged war crimes in Syria

Special forces have been in the country over the past decade in operations against ISIS

A British soldier on patrol. Five members of the SAS are accused of using excessive force in Syria. Getty Images
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Five UK Special Air Service soldiers are being investigated for allegedly committing war crimes in Syria during an operation to kill a suspected militant.

SAS soldiers have been in Syria over the past decade in operations against ISIS, which seized large parts of Syria and Iraq in 2014.

Sources in the SAS told the Daily Mail the militant who was killed by special forces two years ago was not wearing a primed bomb vest at the time of his death, but it was found nearby.

The soldiers are accused of using excessive force. It is claimed they should have instead arrested the man, whom they believed was planning a suicide attack.

The Defence Serious Crime Unit is investigating but no soldiers have been arrested, the BBC reported.

The Daily Mail claims that after the investigation, military chiefs recommended the Service Prosecuting Authority – the equivalent of the Crown Prosecution Service for civilians – charge the soldiers with murder.

They are allowed to remain in service until charged.

The Ministry of Defence, which does not comment on activities by special forces, told The National it takes claims of wrongdoing seriously.

An MOD representative said: “We hold our personnel to the highest standards and any allegations of wrongdoing are taken seriously.

“Where appropriate, any criminal allegations are referred to the Service Police for investigation.”

In 2018, British soldier Sgt Matt Tonroe, 33, was killed in Syria by explosives carried by a member of US special forces during a joint coalition operation.

He remains the only British soldier to be killed in active duty in operations against ISIS.

The independent inquiry relating to Afghanistan is currently investigating claims that UK special forces committed war crimes by killing civilians and unarmed people during night raids between 2010 and 2013.

Officials are assessing whether dozens of killings were illegally carried out and covered up by the Royal Military Police.

Submissions have been made on behalf of the families of 33 people, including eight children, who were allegedly killed by special forces.

Two RMP investigations, code-named Operation Northmoor and Operation Cestro, are set to be scrutinised by the inquiry.

No charges have been brought under Operation Northmoor – a £10 million ($12.7 million) investigation set up in 2014 to examine allegations of executions by special forces, including those of children.

Under Operation Cestro, three soldiers were referred to the Service Prosecuting Authority but none were prosecuted.

The independent inquiry was commissioned by Ben Wallace, who was UK defence secretary at the time, under the 2005 Inquiries Act.

Updated: March 06, 2024, 11:02 AM