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Australian troops ordered to Afghanistan
Source: AAP|Published: Wednesday October 17, 11:26 AM
Australia has upgraded its commitment to the war on terrorism, with the commitment now totalling 1,550 military personnel, four F/A-18 fighter aircraft as well as other aircraft and naval vessels.
Prime Minister John Howard said the main deployment of Australian military into Afghanistan would begin in November.
"I would expect this to be the probable limit to what we would contribute but I can't rule out whether we will be asked to give more," Mr Howard told reporters in Melbourne.
"I don't expect the Americans will make those requests of us."
Today's announcement follows a phone call from US President George W Bush overnight.
"In the course of that discussion he indicated that the US would like to activate the commitment that Australia has made to join the coalition force," Mr Howard told reporters.
"I indicated that Australia would respond.
"He then expressed his appreciation for the way in which Australia responded, the readiness that we had displayed to join the campaign against terrorism."
Mr Howard said the commitment of 1,550 personnel was significant.
"There is nothing token about this contribution, this is a very significant important contribution being made by Australia and it should be seen as much by the Australian people."
Mr Howard said there was a real risk of Australian casualties.
"Whenever you go into battle there is always the risk of casualties, I can't pretend there won't be casualties."
"In those circumstances. the possibility of deaths, the possibility of casualties is quite high."
Mr Howard said some troops could leave within a week or two, but final details were yet to be determined.
"The locations and possible deployment of these forces are being worked out between our respective military planners and the details will not be made available publicly for obvious operational reasons."
The Prime Minister said the increased deployment would not leave Australia defenceless.
"I'm quite satisfied on the advice of the chief of the defence force that the deployments are within the capability of the ADF (Australian Defence Force) without jeopardising the capabilities required for other tasks," he said.
Mr Howard said he hoped it would be possible for both he and Opposition Leader Kim Beazley to farewell the forces.
He contacted Mr Beazley last night and again this morning to update him on the situation.
-- Martin Thompson (email@example.com), October 17, 2001
Muslims prepare for revenge attacks
ISLAMIC community leaders in Melbourne have urged Australian troops bound for Afghanistan not to shoot their Muslim brothers for fear of sparking revenge attacks.
And they warned the ground troop invasion may trigger a full-scale nuclear war, with Australia now one of the prime targets because of its key role in the anti-terrorism effort. Victorian Islamic Council head Yasser Soliman yesterday called on Prime Minister John Howard not to send Australian soldiers to support the US-led fight against Osama bin Laden and his terrorist cronies.
"We have strong reservations," Mr Soliman said. "Our loyalty is to Australia.
"We are Australian Muslims but our stand would be to try and find more peaceful solutions.
"We do not support it 'all the way'. We're very cautious. It's very, very uncertain times for everyone."
Roland Jabbour, of the Australian Arabic Council, blasted Mr Howard's decision as "stupid".
He warned it put Australia at risk of attack by outside terrorists or their supporters already inside the country.
"This is a sad day for Australia. Sending our troops is placing Australia as a possible target for international terrorism," he said.
"This Rambo-style response from the US is not necessary and it's certainly not something we should involve ourselves in.
"We find it very distressing that Australia has found it necessary to take part on the battlefield. It's creating a much worse situation because the battle lines will now be drawn."
Mr Soliman said Victoria's Islamic community would be happier if Australian soldiers were restricted to humanitarian roles, such as giving food to hungry children, rather than combat.
"If they're used to pinpoint targets, that would be OK too. But we're cautious about the consequences of anything else," Mr Soliman said.
"We're concerned about innocent people losing their lives and getting hurt.
"There's already tension in the region. Too many countries have nuclear weapons in the region."
He said some Muslims in Australia were unhappy with the Federal Government's decision.
Other young Muslim men had joined the Australian army and were hoping to fight for their adopted country in Afghanistan, he said.
Mr Soliman said Afghans living in Australia feared for the safety of relatives back in their homeland.
"They're going through the same nightmares at the moment, thinking about what could be happening to their relatives," he said.
Mr Jabbour said Australian Muslims were bracing themselves for more racial abuse and violence after yesterday's decision.
He urged people to remember that the local Islamic community considered themselves Australians first and had nothing to do with the crisis.
-- Martin Thompson (firstname.lastname@example.org), October 18, 2001.