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ADF clears troops of mistreatment allegations -

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ADF clears troops of mistreatment allegations

The World Today - Monday, 12 May , 2008 13:42:00

Reporter: Samantha Hawley

ELEANOR HALL: The Australian Defence Force has ruled that there was no inappropriate behaviour by
Australian troops during a battle in Afghanistan last year, in which one Australian soldier was
killed.

The inquiry was hearing allegations that Australian soldiers killed two women and a baby and
mistreated others during a search and clearance operation in late November 2007.

However it has found that the soldiers did not breach any rules of engagement.

In Canberra, Samantha Hawley reports.

SAMANTHA HAWLEY: On the night of the 23rd of November, 26-year-old Private Luke Worsley was killed
by a single gunshot wound to the head.

The Defence Inquiry has found his death occurred in straightforward circumstances of combat.

KEN GILLESPIE: Private Worsley's actions in identifying a significant threat, informing his
teammates and engaging in the threat are assessed as playing a major role in preventing further
Australian casualties during the incident.

SAMANTHA HAWLEY: It was a dire day for the Defence Force and a bloody battle after which
Australians soldier were accused of killing two women and a baby.

Vice-Chief of the Defence Force Lieutenant General Ken Gillespie says an inquiry into the serious
allegations of mistreatment has cleared the Australian soldiers involved of any wrong doing.

KEN GILLESPIE: Three civilians, two females and an infant child, were killed during the operation.
It has since been revealed that one of the deceased females were positively identified firing an
AK-47 assault rifle at our forces during the engagement and was therefore re-categorised as an
enemy combatant.

Defence public released this fact on the 7th of November during a follow up media inquiry into
Private Worsley's death.

It's also been determined that the deceased child was in one of the rooms from which two male and
one female combatant were engaging Australian forces with AK-47 fire. That said, the death of
civilians and non-combatants during any conflict is highly regrettable.

SAMANTHA HAWLEY: Lieutenant General Gillespie says more and more allegations are being made against
Australian troops in Afghanistan.

KEN GILLESPIE: We see a growing trend of Taliban activity here of whenever detainees are taken to
make allegations that they have mistreated. The net affect of that is that all law abiding nations
and particularly the ISF (International Stabilisation Force) countries that you see over there,
always take that seriously and always go into an investigation.

And so in some regards, by making these allegations, they're causing us considerable administrative
burden. In our case, it's worth going through that burden because our reputation is hard fought.

SAMANTHA HAWLEY: Separate inquiries were also conducted into the deaths of Trooper David Pearce and
Sergeant Matthew Locke who were both killed in October last year.

KEN GILLESPIE: Trooper Pearce was killed on the 8th of October 2007 when the Australian light
armoured vehicle, or ASLAV he was driving, struck an improvised explosive device which was placed
by Taliban extremists.

But the investigating officer found that Trooper Pearce was suitably trained, prepared, and
equipped to operate his ASLAV in a high threat environment.

Sergeant Locke was killed on the 25th of October 2007 by a single gunshot wound during a combat
engagement with a prepared enemy. Sergeant Locke's combat awareness, leadership and battle-cunning
are assessed as playing a major role in preventing further casualties on the day of the incident.

SAMANTHA HAWLEY: An inquiry into the death of Lance Corporal Jason Marks, who was killed in
Afghanistan last month, is still underway.

ELEANOR HALL: Samantha Hawley reporting.