Australian troops caught flying Nazi flag in Afghanistan

Nazi flag
The photograph was taken in 2007. Photo credit: ABC/supplied

Australian troops in Afghanistan were caught flying a Nazi flag in what the defence force is playing down as just a "twisted joke".

A photograph of troops flying the flag - which bears a swastika - was taken in August 2007, but has just been revealed by Australian broadcaster ABC

Digital photography experts told ABC the photo appeared to be genuine. It was reportedly taken to the war-torn country by a soldier.

The Australian Defence Force acknowledged the incident, telling ABC it was "dealt with quickly".

"When the patrol returned to its base, the flag was destroyed," Vice Admiral Ray Griggs said.

The soldiers involved were cautioned and received counselling, the force claimed, saying there was no Nazi sympathies among the troops.

Nazi flag
The full photo. Photo credit: ABC/supplied

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said it was "completely and utterly unacceptable".

"It was absolutely wrong and their commanders took action at the time."

ABC however said one source told it the flag was flying for a "prolonged" period of time.

Australian Jewish rights organisation the Anti-Defamation Commission told ABC it was a "slap in the face to the diggers who fought valiantly and died to defeat Hitler", and called the Nazi flag the "most evil symbol in the history of mankind".

The photo emerged only a week after allegations of war crimes against Australian soldiers emerged, including the killing of unarmed Afghan men. In one alleged incident, an Australian soldier kicked a handcuffed shepherd and father-of-seven off a cliff, The West Australian reported.