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Kevin Rudd's defence man fought Somali warlord

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

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FORMER army colonel Mike Kelly, the man named to be Labor's next defence minister, played a key role in the 1993 trial and execution of a Somali warlord who butchered refugees and Red Cross workers.

The warlord, Hussan Gutaale Abdul, saw the 15 refugee women and children on a dusty street in the southern Somalia town of Baidoa, swerved and ran them over in an armoured personnel carrier.

"He kept running over them until they were pulp," Dr Kelly told The Australian.

Then the warlord and his men raided a Red Cross depot and killed 15 workers there.

Gutaale was later captured by Australian troops and charged in a Somali court. The then Major Kelly led the team that gathered the evidence that convicted him.

As Gutaale was convicted and sentenced to face a firing squad, a mob of his supporters gathered and tried to free him.

Major Kelly, a rugby-playing giant with a determined sense of justice, had only a single Australian soldier with him and used his rifle butt and bayonet to beat off attackers armed with knives.
Gutaale was handed over to police and executed.

That experience started Major Kelly down a road through conflicts in the Balkans, East Timor and Iraq, investigating genocide.

In May 2004 his reports warned DFAT that Australian Wheat Board officials were "up to their eyeballs" in illicit payments to Saddam Hussein's government. He also warned the Howard government about the brutality at Abu Ghraib.

In 2001, as a junior defence minister, Dr Kelly had to fend off criticism of his military record during a campaign by some veterans to have the government change the process by which military pensions are indexed. Some lobbyers claimed he served "behind a desk".

Yesterday, Dr Kelly said he was confident the pension issues still outstanding would be resolved. He said it was prudent of Kevin Rudd to announce yesterday that he would be defence minister if the government were re-elected and if he won his seat. The Prime Minister wanted to ensure continuity in a key security portfolio, he said.

The current minister, Stephen Smith, will remain Defence Minister until he retires from politics at the election.

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