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Australian army chief refuses to drop charges in Afghan deaths

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Australia’s army chief Ken Gillespie resisted public pressure on Wednesday to drop charges against three former commandos in the deaths last year of six Afghans, as cracks began to appear in Australia’s support for its military deployment in Afghanistan. Lt Gen Ken Gillespie issued a statement after more than 20,000 people signed an online petition calling for charges to be withdrawn over a February 2009 raid on a compound in southern Uruzgan province in which six Afghans, including five children, were killed. “The army has a responsibility to protect the integrity and professionalism and to respect the legal obligations inherent in our service,” Gillespie said. “The army is simply not above the law.” The Defence Department announced last month that the trio face multiple charges including manslaughter, dangerous conduct and failing to comply with a lawful general order. Two of the soldiers have blamed an insurgent for the deaths and said they will defend themselves in military courts-martial. The third soldier has made no public comment.


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