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Ex-Child Soldier In War Crimes Guilty Plea

Omar Khadr, now 24 years old, pleaded guilty on October 25 in a U.S. military trial at the Guantanamo Bay detention base.

Canadian former child soldier Omar Khadr, arrested by U.S. forces in Afghanistan at age 15, has pleaded guilty to war crimes in a deal that will see him avoid a life sentence and possibly be returned to serve jail time in Canada.

Before a military tribunal at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay on Cuba, Khadr, who is now 24, on October 25 admitted to killing a U.S. soldier with a grenade in 2002 during a firefight in Afghanistan, and to conspiring with the Al-Qaeda network.

The details of the Toronto-born Khadr's plea deal were not immediately disclosed -- but his sentence has reportedly been limited to eight years, in addition to the eight years he has already spent at the Guantanamo detention camp.

The Guantanamo tribunal's chief military prosecutor, U.S. Navy Captain John Murphy, said the guilty plea showed that Khadr was not a victim, but a confessed murderer.

"Omar Khadr over and over again repeated, 'Yes, that is correct. I did that. I am a murderer. I am an Al-Qaeda terrorist,'” Murphy told reporters.

“What you saw puts a lie to the long standing argument by some that Omar Khadr is a victim. He's not. He's a murderer, and he is convicted by the strength of his own words."

Khadr's Canadian lawyers, however, said Khadr pleaded guilty because it was the only way to get out of what they called the "hellhole" of Guantanamo.

The lawyers questioned why the United States would agree to possibly let Khadr go home to Canada if he really was an Al-Qaeda terrorist and murderer.

The plea deal ends a widely criticized trial that made the United States the first Western nation since World War II to prosecute a child offender for alleged war crimes.

compiled from agency reports