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Originally published April 25, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified April 25, 2007 at 2:02 AM

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Canadian, 20, charged with Afghanistan war crimes

The Pentagon on Tuesday charged a 20-year-old Canadian with murder and other war crimes for his alleged role in fighting U.S. forces in Afghanistan, including...

Los Angeles Times

MIAMI — The Pentagon on Tuesday charged a 20-year-old Canadian with murder and other war crimes for his alleged role in fighting U.S. forces in Afghanistan, including a 2002 grenade attack that killed a U.S. Army medic.

Omar Khadr was 15 at the time of the clash between invading U.S. forces and al-Qaida-backed Taliban militants in which Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Speer was fatally wounded, two Afghan militiamen killed and several U.S. soldiers injured.

The charges referred to the reconstituted military commissions at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, accuse Khadr, who was born in Toronto, of murder, attempted murder, conspiracy, providing material support for terrorism and spying. They were filed by the commissions' convening authority, Susan Crawford, who serves a role like that of an attorney general in the military judicial process.

Although a murder charge can carry a death penalty, Khadr's case was defined in the charge sheet as "noncapital," apparently in view of his age at the time of the alleged offenses.

The U.S. military said Khadr hurled the grenade that killed Speer, 28, of Albuquerque, N.M., and wounded Army Sgt. Layne Morris, of West Jordan, Utah.

The military alleges that Khadr also conducted surveillance of U.S. troops and planted land mines targeting U.S. convoys.

Khadr is only the second of Guantánamo's 385 prisoners to be charged under the 2006 Military Commissions Act, which Congress passed three months after a Supreme Court ruling that President Bush overstepped his powers in 2001, when he unilaterally created the tribunals.

The first case to be taken up at Guantánamo under the new process was that of Australian David Hicks, 31, who pleaded guilty last month in exchange for a drastically reduced sentence of nine months, most to be served in his homeland.

Under the new commissions' rules, Khadr must be arraigned within 30 days and his trial begun within four months.

Khadr's Egyptian-born father, Ahmad Said al-Khadr, was killed in Pakistan in 2003 alongside senior al-Qaida operatives. Canada is holding Khadr's brother Abdullah on a U.S. extradition warrant accusing him of supplying weapons to al-Qaida.

In related developments:

Canada vote: Canada's Parliament on Tuesday narrowly defeated a motion calling for the country to pull its 2,500 troops out of the NATO alliance fighting in Afghanistan by 2009. The motion, which would have been nonbinding, was brought by Liberal opposition lawmakers who have been pushing for a troop withdrawal as the Canadian death toll has steadily mounted. Fifty-four Canadian soldiers and one diplomat have been killed thus far in Afghanistan.

Release reversal: Ethiopia has changed its mind and decided for the time being not to free Amir Mohamed Meshal, an American Muslim who was captured trying to flee Somalia and was held without charges in Kenya and Ethiopia for more than four months, according to an internal U.S. government document. Ethiopia gave no reason for the turnaround on Meshal, 24, of Tinton Falls, N.J.

Material from The Associated Press and McClatchy Newspapers is included in this report.

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