Australian 'spies' working in Africa
Cape Town - A secret squadron of Australian SAS soldiers has been operating at large in Africa, performing work normally done by spies, in an unannounced and possibly dangerous expansion of Australia's foreign military engagement, The Age reported on Tuesday.
According to the report, the deployment of the SAS's 4 Squadron - the existence of which has never been publicly confirmed - has put the special forces unit at the outer reaches of Australian and international law.
"The Age has confirmed that troopers from the squadron have mounted dozens of secret operations over the past year in African nations including Zimbabwe, Nigeria and Kenya," it said.
"They have been out of uniform and not accompanied by Australian Secret Intelligence Service officers with whom undercover SAS forces are conventionally deployed.
It is believed the missions have involved gathering intelligence on terrorism and scoping rescue strategies for Australian civilians trapped by kidnapping or civil war."
The report said that the operations have raised serious concerns within the Australian military and intelligence community because they involve countries where Australia is not at war.
There are also concerns within the SAS that the troopers do not have adequate legal protection or contingency plans if they are captured. ''They have all the espionage skills but without [ASIS's] legal cover,'' a government source is quoted as saying.