Australia’s Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and the Defense Department condemned Australian soldiers shown in a leaked photo flying a Nazi flag on an Australian army vehicle.
The August 2007 photo obtained by the Australian Broadcast Corporation (ABC) shows a large flag emblazoned with a swastika attached to an army vehicle during operations in Afghanistan.
Prime Minister Turnbull denounced the soldier’s behavior, and said the flag was “completely and utterly unacceptable.”
“It was absolutely wrong and their commanders took action at the time,” Turnbull told reporters on Thursday.
Defense officials confirmed the photo’s authenticity, and told the ABC: “Defense and the Australian Defense Forces reject as abhorrent everything this flag represents.”
“Neither the flag nor its use are in line with Defense values,” it said, adding “The commander took immediate action to have the offensive flag taken down.”
The Vice Chief of Defense, Vice Admiral Ray Griggs, said the flag was destroyed when the patrol returned to base.
A defense source told the ABC that the flag was flown for a “prolonged period” and should be seen as a “twisted joke” rather than an actual display of neo-Nazi sentiment.
The leaked photos come at the heels of an investigation launched in September into possible war crimes committed by Australian soldiers in Afghanistan between 2005 and 2016.
The ABC reported Saturday that Australia’s elite special forces allegedly killed unarmed Afghan men in 2012. In another incident, Australian troops allegedly killed a man and then took his prosthetic leg home as a souvenir which they used as a novelty drinking vessel.
In July, the ABC reported about an alleged cover-up of the killing of an Afghan boy by Australian soldiers, as well as hundreds of leaked defense documents relating to special forces operations.