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'25 deaths in US custody in 17 months'
May 05, 2004 18:32 IST
Twenty-five Iraqi and Afghan war prisoners have died in US custody in the last 17 months, reports the Los Angeles Times.
Quoting senior defence officials, the Times said these included two Iraqi detainees who may have been murdered by Americans. Pentagon officials released few details of the 25 deaths, which they said were among 35 cases of possible instances of prisoner abuse by US soldiers, the article said.
The report comes in the wake of international uproar over the release of graphic pictures of naked detainees being abused by American soldiers at the Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad. White House officials revealed that US president George W Bush was informed about the allegations of abuse at Abu Ghraib in late December or early January, the Times said.
There also were suggestions that similar problems existed at facilities used to house Afghan war prisoners in 2001.
National security advisor Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld have condemned the abuse, and said President Bush wanted those responsible to be found and punished.
"There were errors made. We have corrected them," said the new US detention chief in Iraq, Major General Geoffrey Miller, who earlier ran the US prison complex in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Speaking to journalists in Baghdad, he said he planned to halve the number of prisoners at Abu Ghraib, and a broad plan to eliminate abuse of prisoners throughout Iraq was already being implemented. Sleep deprivation, the use of hoods, threats, leaving prisoners naked and putting them in pain-producing positions had been specifically banned by army commanders, he said.
Rumsfeld and Army officials detailed 35 investigations since December 2002 of alleged criminal misconduct by American personnel who handled detainees. Ten of the 35 cases involved rape, assault and other injuries and are still under investigation, the Times quoted Gen. George Casey, the Army's vice chief of staff, as saying.
Of the 25 reported deaths, 12 were labeled "undetermined or natural" causes. Ten others remain under investigation. Of the three remaining deaths, one was an Iraqi who was killed by an American guard while trying to escape, said the Times. The shooting death was later ruled to be a "justifiable homicide," Casey said.
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