Child soldier pleads guilty to killing US medic in Afghanistan

By Gurmukh Singh, IANS,

Toronto : Toronto-born Omar Khadr, the only child soldier and last western prisoner held at Guantanamo, Monday pleaded guilty to killing an American in Afghanistan and all other terror charges.

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Twenty-four-year-old Khadr, whose father was a close aide of al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden, was 15 when he was arrested in a gunbattle with the Americans in Afghanistan in 2002.

The Afghan Canadian, whose detention by the Americans as the first child soldier since World War II was strongly criticized by Canadian opposition parties, has till now denied all charges against him.

Apart from pleading guilty to throwing a grenade which killed a US medic, Khadr also admitted to planting improvised explosive devices and getting arms training from al-Qaeda.

The guilty plea will save him from life term and offers him the opportunity to get a transfer to Canada to serve his term here.

His guilty plea is a major blow to his supporters and major newspapers here which maintained that Khadr is innocent and should be freed immediately.

Under a diplomatic agreement reported between Canada and US governments, Khadr may be repatriated to Canada to serve the rest of his jail term possibly in Toronto where his mother, three brothers and two sisters live.

But a Canadian foreign ministry spokeswoman said, “This matter is between Mr. Khadr and the US government. We have no further comment.”

His father, Ahmed Said Khadr, a one-time associate and financier of Osama bin Laden, was killed in Pakistan in 2003. The Khadr family moved to Canada from Egypt in 1977, but because of their dislike of western values, they moved to Peshawar in Pakistan in 1988. In between, the family lived in Toronto.

The left-wing Canadian media used the Khadr issue to settle scores with the current right-wing government.

(Gurmukh Singh can be contacted at [email protected])