Australian soldiers 'kept Taliban prisoners in a dog compound'

A war of words has erupted in Australia following revelations that soldiers kept Taliban prisoners in a dog compound in Afghanistan against Muslim culture.

The Australian soldiers kept the four prisoners, who were suspected of what were described as 'atrocious acts,' in a walled compound where bomb-sniffing dogs are usually kenneled.

Dogs are considered impure by observant Muslims and the soldiers' actions prompted strong criticism.

Abu Ghraib:

Inmates at Abu Ghraib prison, in Iraq, were abused by American soldiers (pictured): The  Australian army has now been accused of human rights violations by using a dog compound as a prison for Taliban extremists

'I am appalled that Australian soldiers have been implicated with such disgusting treatment of human beings,' said Mr Iqbal Patel, president of the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils.

'No human being should be in any way placed in a dog pen.

'I mean, we've heard about the Americans doing similar things of late in Iraq and one never expected that a great country such as Australia would go to such levels.'

But the soldiers, whose regiment has not been identified, received support from both sides of Parliament, with the opposition defence spokesman Nick Minchin saying the 'Diggers' - as Australian soldiers are known - should be cut 'a bit of slack'.

Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon said descriptions of the holding facility as a dog pen were provocative.

The soldiers had been on patrol far from their main base in Tarin Kowt, in southern Afghanistan, but close to one of their forward operating bases.

'They did detain people suspected of the worst and most atrocious acts,' Mr Fitzgibbon told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

'They detained them in the most practical way available to them at the time.

'They were in a compound I've had described to me as a walled compound which I'm sure is used for a variety of purposes.

'I'm advised that the compound is from time to time used to hold dogs, yes.

'Dogs are a very important part of our operations there.'

A defence inquiry report into the claims has found there is no evidence that the Taliban suspects were mistreated.

But the investigating officer conceded that complaints about their treatment may have resulted from cultural differences and not from any physical hardship.

Mr Fitzgibbon said Australian soldiers were fighting a tough battle against Taliban insurgents and the enemy would 'employ any tactic including the use of children as shields and as a means of propaganda.'

Mr Minchin said: 'It's pretty outrageous for any Australian to complain about the behaviour of Australian troops in relation to these Taliban extremists.

'They not only treat other troops but their own people with such degradation, cruelty and appalling procedures.'

Top ranking soldiers in the US military were severely disciplined and even jailed for their treatment of prisoners in Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison in 2004.

Captured enemy fighters were subjected to abuse, torture, sodomy and even homicide - and some were threatened with dogs, which caused added outrage among Muslims.

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