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CNN.com March 25, 2003

U.S. grenade attack suspect moved

MANNHEIM, Germany (CNN) --A U.S. soldier suspected of killing a fellow soldier and wounding 15 others in a grenade and small arms attack on the Army 101st Airborne Division in Kuwait arrived at a military confinement center in Germany Tuesday to await formal charges, U.S. military officials said.

Sgt. Asan Akbar, 31, of Fort Campbell, Kentucky, a combat engineer with the 326th Engineer Battalion of the 101st, is accused of lobbing four grenades -- three of which exploded -- at tents of the division's 1st Brigade early Sunday. He also is suspected of firing on soldiers as they fled the tents after the explosions.

After reviewing the evidence, a military magistrate Monday found probable cause that Akbar committed the crime, the Army said in news release Tuesday.

In the statement issued by the 101st Airborne Division's 1st Brigade, the Army said the military magistrate "found that a crime was committed, that it is probable that the accused soldier committed that crime."

The Army further stated, "The command emphasizes that this soldier is innocent until proven otherwise, and cautions all interested parties to avoid jumping to conclusions or making statements that they might later regret."

The magistrate also determined that Akbar must remain in custody pending an investigation and military trial.

The soldier was brought to the Mannheim Confinement Center, a maximum security facility at the far end of Coleman Barracks Army Airfield, about 60 miles south of Frankfurt, Germany.

The facility -- officially known as the U.S. Army Confinement Facility-Europe -- is the largest U.S. military confinement center outside the United States. It houses military personnel from the European theater and Middle East suspected of crimes.

Officials have not determined whether Akbar will remain in Germany or brought back to the United States for proceedings.

The confinement center where he is being housed is surrounded by an 8-foot-high chain-link fence topped with barbed wire. Arriving prisoners usually are placed in a 6-foot by 8-foot cell for the first 72 hours of confinement, according to the Web site globalsecurity.org, an international security organization. The cell is usually equipped with a bed, toilet and sink, the site said.

In the first three days of confinement, prisoners must remain in a cell for 23 1/2 hours each day under camera surveillance, the Web site said. If a prisoner wants to flush the toilet or run water, they must call a guard, who controls these functions from outside the cells.

A doctor, chaplain and social worker are allowed to visit. Once 72 hours are completed and if a prisoner is no longer deemed a concern, the Web site says, they can then be transferred to a larger cell and allowed to call home at their own expense.

Captain Chris Seifert, 27, of Easton, Pennsylvania, was killed in the attack.

The Army's news release said "many" of those injured returned to duty within 24 hours and others will return "within days." Five of the most seriously injured were transported to Landstuhl, Germany, for additional care.

The FBI has said its agents searched Akbar's apartment at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, where the 101st Airborne is based, and questioned his neighbors. Federal agents are also tracking down information on his life in California, where he attended college and a Los Angeles Islamic Center, the FBI said.


Copyright 2003, CNN.com