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Claws out over Afghan torture allegations

Nov. 20, 2009 at 9:46 AM

OTTAWA, Nov. 20 (UPI) -- Canada's Conservative government has come out swinging at a diplomat who alleges the military fed into a torture campaign in Afghanistan.

Richard Colvin, who was based in Kandahar, Afghanistan, in 2006 and 2007 created an uproar Wednesday when he told a parliamentary committee in Ottawa that Canadian troops had turned suspects over to Afghan authorities knowing they would be tortured.

In parliament Thursday, Defense Minister Peter MacKay lashed out at the allegations, saying they were "nothing short of hearsay, second- or third-hand information, or that which came directly from the Taliban," the Canwest News Service reported.

"There are incredible holes in the story that have to be examined," MacKay said.

Colvin also said he sent numerous diplomatic cable messages about his concerns to government and military officials, which he said were ignored. However, Lt.-Gen. Michel Gauthier told Global TV in an e-mail the allegation was not true.

"I can ... say with complete confidence that personnel under my command were not in the habit, as a matter of either policy or practice, of ignoring important reports from the field -- quite the opposite," he said.

A parliamentary inquiry into the matter is scheduled to begin next Wednesday, the Globe and Mail said.

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