Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and the Department of Defence have condemned an incident which took place almost a decade ago, where Australian soldiers were reportedly photographed for flying a Nazi swastika flag from their vehicle during operations in Afghanistan.

The leaked photographs obtained by the ABC were reportedly taken in August 2007 displaying a large swastika emblem hoisted over an Australian military vehicle.

The swastika was the emblem of Germany’s Nazi Party and later the country’s national flag. Under the guise of this symbol, millions of Jews, Gypsies and others were exterminated by the state during the 1940s in a genocide known as the Holocaust.

Australian Defence Force has confirmed that the photos were genuine, and has rejected the flag as being against Australian Defence values.

According to a Defence spokesperson, the “Defence and the Australian Defence Force reject (the incident) as abhorrent (and) everything this flag represents”.

The flag was reportedly flown “for a prolonged period”, and the image was circulated among Australian soldiers.

The incident has been said to be part of a “twisted joke”, rather than evidence or an expression of genuine neo-Nazism.

The Vice Chief of Defence Ray Griggs said that appropriate action was promptly taken to remove and destroy the flag, with punishment swiftly carried out.

“I think the important thing is the situation was dealt with quickly — the flag was removed,” said Mr Griggs.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull slammed the conduct of the soldiers who raised the flag as “completely and utterly unacceptable”.

The incident was followed by an internal Defence inquiry which was launched into the culture of the defence force’s elite special forces.

Nevertheless, it has been deeply concerning to see Australian diggers who have previously fought against Hitler raise the swastika flag in a foreign land which has no bearing.

“The flying of the Nazi flag, the most-evil symbol in the history of mankind, by our soldiers is a slap in the face to the diggers who fought valiantly and died to defeat Hitler,” said the Australian-Jewish academic Dr Dvir Abramovich.

As per the Australian Racial Discrimination Act 1975, all forms of racism whether that be anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, or any other forms of bigotry or intolerance must be reported and promptly condemned.