Classified documents allege that some Australian troops killed unarmed men and children in Afghanistan, prompting a government-backed probe.
The Advertiser reports that an unprecedented nine soldiers - one women and eight men - have recently killed themselves.
The paper says they were aged from their early 20s to their 50s, and all died over a three-week-period, as Australia was rocked by allegations about Afghanistan.
Shocking footage, for example, showed an Australian SAS soldier shooting an unarmed Afghan man dead as he cowered in a field.
A damning new inquiry report by the Inspector-General of the Australian Defense Force reveals soldiers allegedly killed 39 prisoners and civilians.
The 'shameful record' of alleged killings took place outside the "heat of battle", the redacted 465-page report claimed.
It was published after a four-year investigation into allegations and rumors surrounding the behavior of some soldiers in Special Air Service and Commando Regiments in Afghanistan from 2005 till 2016.
However, there has been no suggestion that any of the nine dead soldiers were linked to the report's alleged war crimes.
It's also not been established that they killed themselves as a result of the investigation and subsequent report. Plus, the recent deaths aren't related.
But, the impact of extensively published allegations has been slammed by an ex-infantry soldier and veterans' mental health advocate.
Neil Wallace told The Advertiser: "I think some of the media [reports of alleged war crimes] has been painting everyone with the same brush, and people seem to have forgotten about innocence until proven guilty – and that adds additional stress."
Among the soldiers who have taken their own lives is Afghanistan war veteran Private Shane Holt, of Brisbane.
He is reported to have died on November 16.
Holt is survived by a partner and three-year-old son.
"Shane's soldiering skills and dedication to duty were exemplary.
"However these qualities came second to his reputation as an amazing father and his kind and caring nature," according to national online community The Pineapple Express.
Holt served Australia in Afghanistan in 2015, where he was deployed on Force Protection Element. There is no suggestion he was alluded to in the report.
Fellow Queenslander Air Force veteran Robert John Phillips, 33, died on November 1, reports Daily Mail Australia.
Serving as an Airfield Defense Guard, Phillips leaves behind two children.
The Pineapple Express said that he "was an awesome mate, hardest worker and he was a great father. He was a big brother to everyone.
"Adored and cherished father, brother, uncle, comrade and friend. Forever loved, never forgotten."
The Pineapple Express is advocating for veterans' mental health, and has been posting about the deaths to raise awareness.
On October 30, PTE Braiden Russell - who served two years in the Army - took his own life.
His grieving family said in a statement: "He was the most harmless, well meaning person ever and had so much passion for the Army.
"Unfortunately, our ability to compartmentalize things, hide our emotions, and continue fronting up and being a warrior, in the face of extreme adversity, and taking the highs and lows of life in our stride takes its toll."
Another suicide occurred last Thursday, the Mail adds.
A concerned ex-Australian Defence Force member told the Courier Mail in Brisbane: "The number of suicides in such a small time frame is unprecedented – it's unfathomable.
"We are absolutely speechless. And these are only the Defense members and veterans that we know of, and does not take into account the number of suicide attempts that have been occurring."
Adelaide Army veteran Nathan Bolton told reporters the numbers were "tragic and devastating" after at least 56 veterans committed suicide this year alone, up from 40 in 2019.
Australian media mogul Kerry Stokes, 80, has offered funding for troops who are potentially facing prosecution for alleged unlawful killings in Afghanistan, reports The Times.
His spokesman said the money will go towards the legal costs of those former and current SAS members being investigated for unlawful killings.
The killings reportedly included "first kill" shooting by junior soldiers on the orders of SAS who wanted their subordinates "blooded", The Times reports.
General Angus Campbell, head of the Australian Defense Force, alleged that the number of Afghans killed unlawfully by rogue special forces may be higher than 39.
"Some patrols took the law into their own hands, rules were broken, stories concocted, lies told and prisoners killed," Campbell alleged.
A new investigative agency headed by a retired judge or senior criminal lawyer will build criminal cases based on the damning new report.
These will be against some soldiers who were in the Special Air Service Regiment and Commando Regiment in Afghanistan between 2005 and 2016, Australian officials confirmed last week.
Neil James, CEO of the Australian Defense Association think tank, said the Australian military wanted solders to have their day in court to end a “continuous rumor mill".
“It’s certainly the case that they’re going to take a long time because we’re talking about a complex investigation.
"Witnesses will have to be interviewed under caution - in many cases those witnesses will be overseas - and in some cases it’ll be hard to interview them because they are in enemy-held territory in a war zone,” James said.
“So the complexity of this is going to be difficult, but it’s got to be faced because … Australia has to face up to this, that things did go wrong and we need to fix it,” he added.
About 39,000 Australians served in Afghanistan and 41 were killed.
Afghanistan’s Independent Human Rights Commission said it provided information on at least ten cases of alleged war crimes to Australian investigators.
Source: The Scottish Sun