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Australian forces kill Taliban bomb chief: Ho -

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PETER CAVE: The chief of the Australian Defence Force Angus Houston says that Australian soldiers
killed another Taliban leader over the weekend. The air chief marshal held a media briefing in
Canberra this morning to update the progress of the war in Afghanistan.

He's also revealed the findings of investigations into allegations that the Australian operations
have caused civilian deaths.

Sabra Lane has been at the briefing. She joins me now.

PETER CAVE: Sabra, what do we know about the death of this insurgent leader?

SABRA LANE: Peter we know a little about him and the operation that led to his killing.

It happened on the 24th of May, that's last Sunday, during what Angus Houston describes as a short
battle. The name of this man is Mullah Khasan. Angus Houston describes him as a known improvised
explosives facilitator. He says he was a man who commanded and controlled IED missions in Oruzgan
province. IEDs are those improvised explosive devices, the so-called homemade bombs.

He said that this man had led a number of controlled missions and he also said it was possible that
the missions had claimed or been responsible for Australian deaths.

He says that Australian operations in Oruzgan were having a clear impact in affecting Taliban
operations and the chief of the defence force said it was highly likely that this particular
individual had led to Australian casualties.

Here is what Angus Houston had to say about the leader.

ANGUS HOUSTON: That individual was the principal leader in the facilitation of improvised explosive
devices. And we've been chasing him for a while. We've finally got him.

I think it demonstrates quite clearly that if you're a Taliban leader in Oruzgan, you shouldn't
feel safe because we are, we are aware of who all the leaders are and we are in pursuit of them.
And we will continue to go after them, to disrupt their operations so we create a safer and more
secure environment.

PETER CAVE: The chief of the defence force Angus Houston.

Sabra, what did he have to say about these allegations that Australian forces have been causing
civilian casualties?

SABRA LANE: Well he talked about two particular investigations. One investigation into an incident
that happened in December last year where Australian soldiers had fired upon a man who had
approached them. He had wires protruding from his clothes. And this particular incident happened in
an area where there had been a suicide bombing in the previous 24 hours.

These soldiers, an investigation was launched into this event because the soldiers asked this man
to stop several times in the native language. He didn't stop and regrettably, as Angus Houston
says, this man was fired upon and killed.

A later investigation showed that this man wasn't wearing a suicide bomb device but he had wires
protruding from his clothes. Why? Angus Houston said he did not know. He said it was with deep
regret that this incident had happened but that the soldiers had acted in accordance with the rules
of engagement.

Angus Houston also revealed details into an investigation into an incident in January this year in
which eight civilians were wounded and one of those later died. These civilians had turned up at a
facility and claimed that they'd been wounded by Australian ordnance.

Angus Houston launched an investigation within days of this occurring and he released details of
that report today. He said a number of battles had occurred in the Baluchi Valley in January this
year; that these civilians were injured during those battles; that Australian special operations
task force soldiers had fired eight mortars in this particular battle, directed at Taliban
insurgents.

He said seven of those ordnance were directly observed and they did not injure civilians. He said
an eighth was not directly observed but he's confident it did not lead to civilian casualties
because he says it landed about 60 metres from its target and fell in uninhabited ground where
no-one had been.

But he says fragments taken from one survivor did not match ordnance used by Australians and he
says it was actually more likely that these civilians were wounded from two rockets which were
fired overhead by Taliban fighters, which had landed near dwellings.

The investigation has cleared these soldiers. This is what Angus Houston had to say.

ANGUS HOUSTON: If you take the rocket-propelled grenade that was fired at us and the 107 millimetre
rocket that was also fired at us, they went over the top of the compound where our people were and
they went into an area which was full of dwellings. And in fact the rocket-propelled grenade
exploded above the compounds and the rocket went into that area.

So on the balance of probabilities, all I conclude is that that was more likely to have caused the
casualties than what we were doing.

PETER CAVE: Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston. Our reporter in Canberra was Sabra Lane.