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Australian elite soldiers killed Afghan civilians, report finds



There is “credible evidence” that Australian special forces unlawfully killed 39 people during the Afghan conflict, a long-awaited report has found.

The Australian Defence Force (ADF) has released findings from a four-year inquiry into misconduct by its forces.

The inquiry investigated 57 incidents and heard from hundreds of witnesses.

It had uncovered a “shameful record” of a “warrior culture” by some soldiers, ADF chief General Angus Campbell said.

He said the report said 25 Australian soldiers were involved in the killings, none of which could be “described as being in the heat of battle”.

“None were alleged to have occurred in circumstances in which the intent of the perpetrator was unclear, confused or mistaken,” Gen Campbell said.

“And every person spoken to by the inquiry thoroughly understood the law of armed conflict and the rules of engagement under which they operated.”

Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani said Mr Morrison had phoned him to express his “deepest sorrow” over the findings.

Mr Ghani said he had been assured that Australia was committed to “ensuring justice”.

Last week, Prime Minister Scott Morrison warned the report would bring “hard news for Australians”.

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Abdul Nacer Benbrika: Australia revokes citizenship of terror plotter




Australia has cancelled the citizenship of an Algerian-born Muslim cleric convicted of planning a series of terror attacks in 2005.

Abdul Nacer Benbrika was jailed for 15 years in 2009 and is eligible for release from next month.

But Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton said it was “appropriate” to revoke his citizenship to protect Australians.

The move makes Benbrika the first person to be stripped of Australian citizenship while still in the country.

His lawyer has declined to comment on the government’s decision, ABC News reports.

“If it’s a person who’s posing a significant terrorist threat to our country, then we’ll do whatever is possible within Australian law to protect Australians,” Mr Dutton told reporters in Brisbane.

Under Australian law, the government can only strip people of citizenship if they are dual citizens, ensuring they will not be left stateless.

Last year Australia’s national security agency Asio raised concerns about this government power, saying it “may have unintended or unforeseen adverse security outcomes”.

Benbrika, who has lived in Australia since 1989, was arrested in 2005 and convicted of being a member of a terrorist organisation and leading its activities.

Six others were also convicted of joining the group, which had planned multiple attacks, including one on an Australian rules football final which attracts nearly 100,000 people every year in Melbourne.

Benbrika’s sentence includes a 12-year non-parole period that expired on 5 November. But Australia’s government has applied to Victoria state’s Supreme Court for a continuing detention order to extend his time in prison.

Under such orders, people convicted of terrorism offences can be held in prison for up to three years after their sentence finishes.

Victoria’s Supreme Court has so far granted two temporary, 28-day extensions to keep Benrika behind bars.

Lawyers for Benbrika have appealed against his ongoing detention.

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Covid: Vaccination will be required to fly, says Qantas chief




International air travellers will in future need to prove they have been vaccinated against Covid-19 in order to board Qantas flights, the airline says.

The Australian flag carrier’s boss, Alan Joyce, said the move would be “a necessity” when vaccines are available.

“I think that’s going to be a common thing talking to my colleagues in other airlines around the globe,” he said.

Australia shut down its international borders early in the pandemic and required those returning to quarantine.

The country has more recently relied on lockdowns, widespread testing and aggressive contact tracing to push daily infections nationwide close to zero.

In an interview with Australia’s Nine Network on Monday, Mr Joyce said Qantas was looking at ways of changing its terms and conditions for international travellers as the industry, which has been hit hard by travel restrictions, looks at ways of moving forward.

“We will ask people to have a vaccination before they can get on the aircraft… for international visitors coming out and people leaving the country we think that’s a necessity,” he told the broadcaster.

In August, Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison said it was likely that any successful vaccine would become “as mandatory as you could possibly make it”.

“There are always exemptions for any vaccine on medical grounds, but that should be the only basis,” he told radio station 3AW.

That same month, Qantas reported an annual loss of almost A$2bn ($1.46bn; £1bn) because of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Mr Joyce said at the time that trading conditions were the worst in the airline’s 100-year history and that “the impact of Covid on all airlines is clear – it’s devastating”.

On Monday, the Australian state of New South Wales (NSW) reopened its border with neighbouring Victoria for the first time since infections soared in Victoria’s state capital, Melbourne, in July.

Flights between the city and the NSW capital Sydney – normally one of the world’s busiest routes – had been cancelled.

Arriving in Sydney on a Qantas flight for the first time in months, passengers were greeted by people at the terminal holding up signs that read “welcome back”.

More than 20 additional flights were scheduled between the two states on Monday.

“Today is the day I get to meet my four-month-old grandson for the first time,” one passenger told the BBC.

Australia has recorded about 900 coronavirus-related deaths and almost 28,000 infections in total.

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Covid: Pizza worker’s ‘lie’ forced South Australia lockdown




South Australia decided to enter a state-wide lockdown based on a lie told by a man with Covid-19 about his link to a pizza shop, police say.

The strict lockdown began on Wednesday after the state detected 36 infections, including its first locally acquired cases since April.

But this would have been avoided if the man had told the truth, that he worked shifts at the shop, officials said.

He said he only went there to buy a pizza.

This misinformation prompted health officials to assume the man had caught the virus during a very brief exposure and that the strain must be a highly contagious one.

“To say I am fuming is an understatement,” state Premier Steven Marshall told reporters on Friday.

Australia has relied on lockdowns, widespread testing and aggressive contact tracing to push daily infections close to zero.

“We are absolutely livid with the actions of this individual and we will be looking very carefully at what consequences there [are] going to be,” Mr Marshall added.

South Australia Police Commissioner Grant Stevens initially said the man was unlikely to face charges because there was “no penalty associated with telling lies”.

But he later announced a special task force would be set up to look at the circumstances surrounding the incident and investigate whether any laws were broken.
State officials said they would lift the lockdown on Saturday – three days earlier than planned – after recording only three new cases on Friday.

Police did not identify the man, but said he worked at the Woodville Pizza Bar in Adelaide.

Sydney Morning Herald newspaper reported that he worked with a security guard who contracted the virus at a quarantine hotel at the centre of the outbreak, which prompted South Australia to go on high alert on Monday.

When asked by reporters if the shop may need extra security because of public anger, Mr Stevens said: “There are all sorts of things we are considering at this point.”

The state’s outbreak follows neighbouring Victoria’s success in crushing a second wave of coronavirus which caused about 800 deaths.

Victoria has recorded 21 consecutive days of no cases or deaths after its capital, Melbourne, emerged from a strict four-month lockdown.

Australia has recorded about 900 deaths and 28,000 infections in total.

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