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Minister Tells Soldiers To Shut Up About Somalia

November 24, 1994

OTTAWA (AP) _ The Canadian defense minister Thursday said soldiers should save their stories about Canada’s troubled peacekeeping stint in Somalia for a formal inquiry instead of sharing them with the media.

More disturbing comments about what went on during the Canadian Airborne Regiment’s ill-starred United Nations tour in Somalia last year have surfaced.

Retired Maj. Gen. Lewis MacKenzie, who once commanded U.N. forces in Sarajevo, said last week that soldiers from the regiment tortured a 16-year- old youth until he died.

Under mounting pressure, Defense Minister David Collenette announced last week a public inquiry would be held into the conduct of the forces in Somalia.

The Canadian Airborne Regiment went into Belet Huen in December 1992 as part of the American-led U.N. intervention force. Three Somalis were shot and killed in separate incidents during the tour. A fourth, Shidane Arone, was captured and beaten to death.

Shidane was taken to a bunker called ″the pit,″ where he was tied and blindfolded. Over the next three hours, Master Cpl. Clayton Matchee beat him with his fists, a truncheon and eventually a metal bar.

Pvt. Elvin Kyle Brown participated briefly, then took photographs of the bloody Shidane and Matchee.

Matchee was arrested March 18. Later that day, he was found hanging in his cell. He survived, but suffered such brain damage he could not stand trial.

Brown was court-martialed and found guilty of manslaughter and torture and sentenced to five years in prison.

Maj. Barry Armstrong, a military surgeon, claimed two weeks ago that senior officers issued orders to destroy evidence about Shidane’s death. He said he refused to obey the orders and has evidence locked in a safe.

News reports Thursday quoted retired Maj. Lee Jewer, who also served as a doctor in Somalia, as confirming Armstrong’s story of orders to destroy photographs.

Collenette said Thursday soldiers should communicate through the chain of command, not the news media.

″I am concerned about the fact that another member of the Canadian Armed Forces has made a public statement without authorization,″ he said. ″As a condition of service, if individuals have something to communicate, they communicate through their superiors.″

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