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Australian Soldiers Accused of Mistreating Taliban Captives


Muslim groups are accusing Australian soldiers in Afghanistan of cultural insensitivity and violating rules on treating prisoners. The Australian defense minister and soldiers' groups say the treatment was lawful and not inhumane. From Sydney, Phil Mercer reports.

The Australian military has been accused of mistreating Taliban captives in Afghanistan by detaining them in dog pens.

In Islamic tradition, dogs are considered to be impure.

Ikebal Patel, the president of the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils, says the Australian forces behaved irresponsibly.

"I'm actually quite shocked," he said. "To be honest, I'm appalled that now the Australian soldiers have been in any way implicated with such disgusting treatment of human beings."

Australian commandos captured four suspected insurgents in Afghanistan in late April and held them for 24 hours in a compound occasionally used to house dogs.

Defense Minister Joel Fitzgibbon says that Taliban prisoners have been well treated.

"We will always endeavor to comply with all aspects of international law," he said. "You know we are at war in Afghanistan with people who would employ any tactic including the use of children as shields and as a means of propaganda and it's a tough battle. But we always endeavor to comply on all occasions with international law and I'm confident that our people have done so."

In Canberra, defense officials report that nine Australian Special Forces troops were wounded in a battle with insurgents in Uruzgan province, a former Taliban stronghold. At least one trooper has suffered life-threatening injuries.

Australia has about 1,000 soldiers in Afghanistan. Six Australians have been killed there.

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd says the multinational mission in Afghanistan will ensure that the "bastion of terror" under the Taliban's rule never returns.

The hard-line Islamic Taliban government was ousted in a U.S.-led invasion in late 2001. Since then, its supporters, including members of the al Qaida terrorist network have repeatedly attacked civilians, Afghan government officials and the international forces trying to provide security to the country.

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