Marines' shoot-to-kill tactic ruffles feathers

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The Independent US

The victim was unarmed, it was not even in uniform, but marines are not trained to take prisoners. Especially not an emu.

The victim was unarmed, it was not even in uniform, but American marines are not trained to take prisoners. Especially not an emu.

Questions are being asked after a group of marines on exercise in Australia blasted one of the birds after it wandered on to a firing range. The incident, at a training ground at a training ground near Rockhampton, Queensland, has outraged animal conservation groups.

The marines, based in Okinawa, Japan, were taking part in Tandem Thrust 2001 ­ a joint exercise involving 27,000 US and Australian troops, with tanks, artillery, aircraft and warships. The exercise involved a number of training scenarios for the marines, though it is unlikely to have included spraying large, flightless birds with semi-automatic weapons.

After the incident, the marines were pulled in for a refresher course on the do's and don'ts of operating in the area. A two-page fact sheet included an extensive guide to the local environment with a clear warning: "Do not chase, harass or fire at animals."

Marine Corps spokesman Captain Jeff Pool, said the document also warned against taking any animals as souvenirs.

But environmentalists are furious because this is allegedly not the first time the élite troops have fixed the local fauna in their sights. The Wildlife Protection Agency president, Pat O'Brien, said: "We've had reports that the last time the Americans were here, some were shooting wallabies and skinning them to take the skins home as trophies."

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