Australia probes 'offensive' videos by soldiers in Iraq


Australia's military chief pledged an investigation into videos showing "inappropriate images" of Australian soldiers in Iraq.

Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston pledged that strong action would be taken against soldiers found responsible for the images posted on internet sites.

Details of the 14 video clips were revealed in an article on the Time magazine website which said they appeared to feature "serious wrongdoing by soldiers during their 2004 and 2005 operations in Baghdad".

The magazine said the "trophy-style" pictures and videos included one of an Australian soldier holding a gun to the head of a man, possibly another soldier, wearing Arab robes and headdress.

Other videos show soldiers exposing themselves, and wielding pistols in apparent breach of safety protocols and fraternising with Iraqis, which the magazine said could potentially jeopardise their safety.

The videos were posted on the YouTube website but have since been removed.

"The behaviour in these few images displays cultural insensitivity, a disregard for operational security and inappropriate handling of weapons and is not condoned or sanctioned by Defence in any way," Houston said.

"There is no place in the (Australian Defence Force) for members who behave in this way. It shows a disregard for the high standards our people maintain."

Houston said most of the imagery showed Australian troops in a wholly positive light.

"We are not talking about a widespread problem here. We are talking about a small number of images," he told reporters.

"We will take action to find out who is responsible for the offending images and we will clearly take action."

Army chief Lieutenant General Peter Leahy said he was extremely disappointed that some very unprofessional, immature and silly soldiers displayed such images that brought all other Australian soldiers into disrepute.

"We will complete an investigation," he said. "And then, put simply, I will be asking a question why these soldiers should remain in the army."

The United States was rocked by a scandal over pictures taken by some of its soldiers at the Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad in 2003 which showed the widepread abuse of prisoners there.

The pictures, including some showing bloodied and naked prisoners smeared with excrement or forced to perform sexual acts, stoked anti-US sentiment across the world.

Seven lower ranking US soldiers, described by Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld as "a few bad apples", faced courts martial over the abuse.

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