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US Reports 94 Cases of Prisoner Abuse in Iraq

The US military has found 94 cases of confirmed or alleged abuse of prisoners by US soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan since the fall of 2001, the Army's inspector general said Thursday in a long-awaited report made public at a hastily called Senate hearing.

The number is significantly higher than all other previous estimates given by the Pentagon, which had refused until now to give a total number of abuse allegations.

The inspector general investigation, ordered February 10 after the allegations of abuse at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq came to the attention of top Army officials in Washington, concluded that there were no systemic problems that contributed to the abuse. In some cases, the report found, the abuse was abetted or facilitated by officers not following proper procedures.

In contrast to its own findings, however, the Army report also cites a February report from the International Committee for the Red Cross that alleged that "methods of ill treatment" were "used in a systematic way" by the US military in Iraq.

Seven members of the 372nd Military Police Company, an Army Reserve unit from Cresaptown, Md., were charged in the prisoner abuse scandal, which unfolded this past spring with the release of pictures of abuse and sexual humiliation of prisoners at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison.

Questions also arose about prisons in Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and the deaths of detainees, as well as whether abuse was part of interrogations.

Sen. John Warner, the Republican chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, who had been pressing for the results of the inspector general report for several weeks, called the last-minute hearing Thursday before Congress leaves for the rest of the summer Friday.

The Army has not yet made the entire report public but released parts during the public hearing.

The Army inspector general report, looking at the period from October 1. 2001 through June 9 of this year in Iraq and Afghanistan, is by far the most comprehensive examination of the abuse that sent shock waves through both the Arab world and the United States.

Acting Army Secretary Les Brownlee, testifying at the hearing, said he accepted responsibility for the abuses committed by soldiers.

But Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, ranking Democrat on the committee, said it was "difficult to believe there were not systemic problems with our detention and interrogations operations."

The Army inspector general report found that since the fall of 2001, overall the United States had held more than 50,000 prisoners in Afghanistan and Iraq, a number never before made public.

(China Daily July 23, 2004)


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