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Last Updated: Friday, 31 March 2006, 09:23 GMT 10:23 UK
US deserter 'shocked by abuses'
US soldiers in Iraq
A number of US soldiers have deserted
A US soldier who fled to Canada to avoid serving in Iraq says he was shocked by alleged atrocities committed by the American military.

Josh Key was speaking before Canada's refugee board hearing his asylum plea.

Among the incidents, he described soldiers kicking the severed head of an Iraqi like a football in Ramadi.

Mr Key served as an explosives expert in Iraq for eight months, and deserted to Canada with his family in 2004. He faces a court martial back in the US.

The soldier, 27, also told Canada's refugee board he saw a US army squad leader shooting the foot off an unarmed Iraqi man.

The army's attitude in Iraq was "just shoot and ask questions later", Mr Key said.


Mr Key says he refuses to fight in a war he regards as immoral and illegal.

About 20 US soldiers have applied for asylum in Canada. Two have already had their applications rejected.

The Immigration and Refugee Board said it was not convinced the men would face persecution if they were sent back to the US. They have said they will appeal against the decision.

Speaking to the BBC, Mr Key said he was in Iraq when he realised the war was unjustified.

"The only people that were getting hurt was the innocent; that was innocent Iraqi people, as well as innocent soldiers."

On his return to the US, he told the army that he did not want to return, but was advised that he would face prison if he refused. It was then that he decided to desert.

"Before I went to Iraq, I was trained on how to escape terrorists. You learn to only go where crime is already at. You only go somewhere where who cares about a deserter if somebody is getting murdered every night. I went to Philadelphia," he said.

He spent 14 months in the city, before deciding to flee to Canada.

During the Vietnam war, more than 100,000 Americans went to the neighbour country to avoid the draft.

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