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RFE/RL Iraq Report
A Weekly Review of Developments in and Pertaining to Iraq

16 September 2004, Volume  7, Number  34
INSIDE IRAQ
TURKOMANS CLAIM KURDISH PESHMERGA FORCES BEHIND TEL AFAR MASSACRE. The Turkish government expressed concern this week over U.S.-led military operations in the Iraqi Turkoman-dominated town of Tel Afar. Turkoman representatives have claimed that Kurdish peshmerga forces have launched a campaign in the town as part of a larger program to "ethnically cleanse" Turkomans from northern Iraq.

U.S. officials have said that the operations in Tel Afar are aimed at eliminating the terrorist presence in the town. Western media reports indicated that the town, located near the Syrian border, had been taken over by Sunni militants, foreign fighters, and possibly Ba'ath Party supporters in recent weeks, while some Turkish newspapers reported that the town had become a safe haven for terrorists fleeing Al-Fallujah. Istanbul's "Milliyet" reported on 11 September that Kurdish peshmerga forces wearing Iraqi National Forces uniforms laid siege to the town demanding that Turkoman residents surrender all weapons, and prohibiting males over the age of 18 from leaving the town.

Iraqi Turkoman Front representative Ahmet Muratli told Istanbul's "Star" in statements published on 11 September that the U.S.-led military operation has killed innocent Turkoman civilians. He said that "unarmed" U.S. soldiers had patrolled the town for a year, but "in a single week, they have begun to strike us from aircraft." "This is entirely a provocation by the peshmergas." Muratli contended that the peshmergas "dream of establishing a state" from Mosul to the western border with Syria, where Iraqi Turkomans, who are ethnic Turks, make their home. Muratli told Istanbul's "Radikal" on 11 September: "The Iraqi Army units are made up almost entirely of Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) [leader Mas'ud] Barzani's peshmerga.... They believe that once they control Tel Afar then the road to Mosul will be open to them. They may be trying to declare an independent Kurdish state in the north with a fait accompli using the fighting as an excuse."

The newspaper reported that the Turkish Foreign Ministry relayed a message to Washington on 8 September demanding that the operations in Tel Afar be halted, and humanitarian supplies delivered to the population. Hundreds of Turkomans have reportedly fled the town in recent days for nearby villages. Al-Jazeera reported on 12 August that many Turkomans had taken shelter in schools and temporary camps set up by the Iraqi and United Arab Emirates' Red Crescent Societies, and the Iraqi Islamic Party. The satellite channel said that water and electricity was not available in those villages, and food was in short supply.

The issue has gained little support from groups inside Iraq. Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) head Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim criticized the use of force in the town, saying that dozens of innocent civilians were killed as a result of the attacks, MENA reported on 10 September.

U.S. Ambassador to Ankara Eric Edelman tried to allay Turkish fears in a 13 September meeting with Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Ali Tuygan, Turkey's TRT2 television reported the same day. Edelman reportedly said that the situation would soon be under control, and that insurgents were slowly being removed from the town. "We are carrying out a limited military operation and we are trying to keep civilian losses to a minimum," Reuters quoted Edelman as saying. Turkish officials reportedly said that the Turkoman Front estimated as many as 500 civilians killed in recent days. U.S. sources estimated that 50 people had died, according to the news agency. Meanwhile, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), led by Jalal Talabani posted a statement on its website on 13 September that said: "The Iraqi Army did not take part in the current operations in Tel Afar on the request of the tribal leaders and residents of the town with the view to protecting their assets, properties, and families." (Kathleen Ridolfo)


IRAQ ROCKED BY VIOLENCE THIS WEEK. The rise in violence this week left hundreds of Iraqis dead and wounded in a number of cities. Some 100 people were killed and dozens wounded in a number of cities across Iraq on 12 September alone, international media reported.

Al-Jazeera cited Iraqi medical sources as saying that 13 people were killed and 60 wounded during three hours of intense fighting on Baghdad's Haifa Street on that day. RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq reported that a car bomb detonated next to an armored vehicle, causing the vehicle to catch fire. Militants then began firing on the vehicle, after which an unidentified Iraqi jumped on the vehicle and hung a sign that read "Al-Tawhid wa Al-Jihad" -- a reference to the militant group led by fugitive Jordanian terrorist Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi.

International media also reported on 12 September that U.S. helicopters hours later opened fire on people gathered around what appeared to be the same burning armored vehicle on Haifa Street, killing five people, including a producer for Al-Arabiyah television. A Reuters cameraman was wounded in the attack. A U.S. military statement said that the helicopter came under fire from militants near the vehicle, but Reuters footage showed no Iraqis were armed or had opened fire, the news agency reported.

At least 47 Iraqis were killed and 114 wounded on 14 September in an attack on Baghdad's Karkh police directorate, Al-Arabiyah reported, citing Health Ministry figures. The directorate is also located on Haifa Street. Reuters reported that Iraqi police recruits were lined up outside the directorate when the blast took place. CNN reported that militants fired mortar rounds at the directorate earlier in the morning. Many shops, cafes, and a girls' school are located along Haifa Street, and media reports indicated that the street was crowded with passersby when the attack took place.

Three policemen were killed on 14 September in an attack in Bahraz, located some 5 kilometers south of Ba'qubah, Al-Arabiyah reported. The incident occurred when a bomb exploded outside a building formerly used as police headquarters in the town, the satellite channel reported. Reuters reported that gunmen also opened fire on a minibus transporting policemen in Ba'qubah on 14 September. Ba'qubah Police Chief Walid al-Azawi said that eight policemen were killed and two wounded in the attack.

Ten Iraqis were killed in clashes between U.S. troops and Iraqi militants in Al-Ramadi on 15 September, Al-Jazeera reported. The satellite news channel reported that another 22 Iraqis were reportedly injured in the fighting, while Al-Arabiyah television said that six people were wounded. The fighting came one day after local tribal leaders met with Iraqi Vice President Ibrahim al-Ja'fari. The leaders demanded in the meeting that multinational forces withdraw from Al-Ramadi and be replaced by Iraqi police and National Guard units. The leaders also demanded an end to raids on homes and the release of prisoners detained in Iraq, Al-Diyar television reported.

Meanwhile, the bodies of three decapitated men were found on 15 September near Al-Dujayl, some 60 kilometers northwest of Baghdad, Al-Jazeera reported. Iraqi police sources told the satellite news channel that the bodies were placed in plastic bags, with the heads tied to their backs. Police also said that tattoos were seen on the bodies that appeared to be written in Turkish and Arabic. The Kurdish, Persian, and Afghan languages all use Arabic script with slight variations. The news agency said that no documents were found with the corpses, which were discovered by members of the Iraqi National Guard during a patrol. U.S. officials said that the bodies appeared to be Arabs. The men have not been identified. (Kathleen Ridolfo)


U.S. BOMBS AL-ZARQAWI HIDEOUT IN IRAQ. U.S. forces launched air strikes in Al-Fallujah against purported meeting places for militants loyal to fugitive Jordanian terrorist Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi on 13 September, international media reported. "Intelligence sources reported the presence of several key Zarqawi operatives who have been responsible for numerous terrorist attacks against Iraqi civilians, Iraqi security forces, and multinational forces," Reuters quoted a U.S. military statement as saying.

Doctors at Al-Fallujah Hospital told the news agency that 16 Iraqis -- including women and children -- were killed in the attack, and 12 wounded. The United States said that "intelligence reports indicated that only Zarqawi operatives and associates were at the meeting location at the time of the strike." Al-Jazeera reported on 13 September that 18 people were killed and 29 wounded in the attack. Dr. Rafi Hiyad al-Isawi, director of the Al-Fallujah Hospital, told Al-Jazeera that an ambulance driver was among those killed. He accused U.S. forces of constantly attacking ambulances, and blamed the Iraqi government for not doing enough to protect its own people. Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi said in a 12 September statement that terrorist activities in Iraq have led to the death of 3,000 Iraqis and the wounding of 12,000 others.

Iraqi interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi told Al-Arabiyah television in a 13 September interview that his government would not enter into negotiations with militants in Al-Fallujah. "I met with several groups from Al-Fallujah several times [in the past]," he said. "In fact, we are not ready to engage in negotiations. We have one important question; namely, laying down any illegal arms, dissolving militias because all militias are illegal, respecting the supremacy of law, and acting as part of the Iraqi society."

The prime minister predicted that the security situation will improve in mid-October, and said that his government has requested that the United States, Russia, and Ukraine supply it with additional weapons and security-related equipment. (Kathleen Ridolfo)


ISLAMIC ARMY IN IRAQ CLAIMS TO HAVE ABDUCTED TWO AUSTRALIANS, TWO ASIANS. The militant group Islamic Army in Iraq-Samarra Battalions released a statement on 13 August claiming to have abducted two Australian nationals and two Asians, Al-Arabiyah television reported. The group threatened to kill the Australians within 24 hours unless Australia vowed to remove its troops from Iraq. The statement did not identify the four hostages by name, and provided no other evidence that they had been captured, Reuters reported on 14 September. The Australian government subsequently announced on 14 September that all Australian nationals in Iraq had been accounted for, AFP reported the following day. A Foreign Ministry spokesman said that the government was still searching and inquiring about other Australians that might have entered Iraq without registering their names with the embassy.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard said on 14 September that he would not bow to the terrorists' demands. "Our position remains that we will not alter our foreign policy, our defense policy, our security policy in response to any threat of terrorist organizations," Reuters quoted Howard as telling reporters. Meanwhile, there is no word on the fate of two Italian aid workers kidnapped in Iraq on 7 September. Their captors had threatened to kill them if Italy refused to withdraw its troops from Iraq. (Kathleen Ridolfo)


GROUP KIDNAPS FOUR POLICEMEN IN AL-NAJAF. A group identifying itself as the Joint Forces to Terminate Agents and Spies kidnapped four policemen in Al-Najaf on 10 September, Al-Jazeera reported. The group said in a statement that the officers were kidnapped because they were an annoyance to radical Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, and because they were pursuing "mujahedin" fighters in the city. Al-Sadr spokesman Ahmad al-Shaybani told Al-Jazeera in a 10 September interview that al-Sadr's group did not support the kidnappings. "The policemen must be released," al-Shaybani said, adding, "This is our natural and rational request whether the hostages are Iraqis or non-Iraqis, as in the case of the Italians and the French." (Kathleen Ridolfo)

IRAQI MILITARY OFFICERS UNDER ATTACK IN BA'QUBAH. Iraqi Army Brigadier General Nasha Jawad Hasan was killed by unidentified gunmen at his home in Ba'qubah on 11 September, Al-Arabiyah television reported. Gunmen opened fire on Hasan as he was leaving his house. His driver was also killed in the attack and his bodyguard and son were wounded, Al-Jazeera reported the same day. The satellite news channel also reported that unidentified gunmen kidnapped the family of Iraqi National Guard Colonel Khalis Ali Husayn on 11 September before blowing up his house in Ba'qubah. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

MILITANTS ATTACK PIPELINE IN NORTHERN IRAQ. Militants blew up a domestic oil pipeline in northern Iraq on 14 September, AP reported. The attack took place near Bayji, located about 250 kilometers north of Baghdad. The pipeline transports crude oil from fields outside Kirkuk to a refinery in Bayji. An unnamed official from the Northern Oil Company said that the attack is not expected to affect exports, AP reported. The pipeline has been temporarily shut down. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

AL-SADR RELOCATES OFFICE IN AL-NAJAF. The Al-Najaf News Network (http://www.alnajafnews.net) reported on 13 September that Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has relocated to a new office in the Iraqi holy city of Al-Najaf. Al-Sadr's new office is described as being located in one of the alleyways off Al-Sadiq Street. Both the website and Al-Sharqiyah television reported on 13 September that Iraqi security forces stormed the cleric's previous office last week and uncovered a weapons cache hidden behind a newly built wall in the office. Al-Sharqiyah reported that 10 mortar cannon tubes were confiscated, along with rockets, antitank weapons, heavy mortars, rocket-propelled grenades, automatic weapons, mines, explosives, an antiaircraft cannon, and communications equipment. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

U.S. MARINES DISMANTLE AL-FALLUJAH BRIGADE, SAYS IT AIDS INSURGENCY. U.S. Marines last week disbanded the controversial Al-Fallujah Brigade after it became clear that brigade members were actively assisting militants in the city, international media has reported. The brigade was formed in April in an effort to bring an end to weeks of intense fighting between U.S. forces and militants opposed to the occupation (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 7 May 2004).

The brigade's 1,600-strong force was comprised of former Ba'athists and former enlisted army and Republican Guard personnel from the city under the command of Iraqi Major General Muhammad Latif. Iraqi Governing Council members criticized the formation of the brigade from the start, arguing that the brigade was set up without consultation with the Iraqi Army and initially operated outside the control of the army. Media reports indicated that brigade soldiers refused to dress in the new Iraqi military uniforms, preferring instead to wear Hussein-era army fatigues. Some critics said that soldiers from the brigade did little to rein in the militants.

But, more troublesome are the reports that soldiers from the brigade actually joined up with militants to fight U.S. Marines in Al-Fallujah. Some 800 AK-47 assault rifles, 27 pickup trucks, and 50 radios the Marines gave to the brigade ended up in the hands of militants, washingtonpost.com reported on 13 September. Military officials said that soldiers from the brigade might have heeded pressure by local forces to switch sides. In one incident, the leaders of two Iraqi National Guard battalions that had worked with the Al-Fallujah Brigade were kidnapped and one was beheaded. The fate of the second man is not known, washingtonpost.com reported.

But it appears obvious that brigade members had little intention of serving the interests of the new Iraqi government by bringing peace and stability to Al-Fallujah. Many brigade members had previously fought Marines before joining the brigade in May, latimes.com reported on 10 September. They boasted of their fighting skills and expressed pride at the role they had played in attacking U.S. forces.

U.S. Marine commander Lieutenant General James T. Conway assessed the decision to form the brigade by saying that at the time, it seemed like a good plan. "The early success of the Fallujah Brigade was ultimately its downfall. You had to have a force that came from Fallujah in order for it to be accepted by [all of] the people. They're very xenophobic...but in the end those were the same things I think that dictated the demise of the Fallujah Brigade. Because they were from the local area, they were emasculated as far as their ability to do something very aggressive," washingtonpost.com quoted Conway as saying.

The failure of the brigade also raises worrying questions about how to proceed in the future. The idea for the brigade came when the head of Iraqi intelligence Muhammad Abdallah Shahwani brought a number of former Iraqi army generals to the Marines. The generals offered to set up the force, in what appeared to be a novel collaboration. AFP reported on 11 September, however, that dozens of former generals and colonels from the Hussein regime are advising U.S. military commanders in Iraq about how to deal with the growing insurgency there. The "consultants" reportedly offer operational tips that have led to some successes in the Diyala governorate, where attacks have dropped in the past two months. The consultants are also advising the military in the Al-Tamim Salah Al-Din, and Al-Sulaymaniyah governorates. While risky, it appears that consultants could offer the best hope for breaking the insurgency.

The militants in Iraq cannot be easily identified and many do not easily fit labels so-often used in the media: "Wahhabi," "Sunni loyalist," "Shi'ite militiamen" etc. as London's "The Observer" showed in a 12 September report. One Iraqi militant the daily interviewed described himself as a Sunni Muslim --but not religious -- that supported the U.S.-led war in Iraq, but became disenchanted after seeing U.S. soldiers stand idly by as looters tore through Baghdad days into the liberation. The militant said he works with a seven-man group, of which he said each member possesses a different motive for his membership; the group does not belong to a larger militant organization, but sometimes takes directives to launch attacks on a particular day. The target and method is up to the group. The militant's day job? He works at an Iraqi ministry. (Kathleen Ridolfo)


REGIONAL NEWS
BAHRAIN TO TRAIN 4,000 IRAQI POLICE, NATIONAL GUARDSMEN. Bahrain has offered to train some 4,000 Iraqi police and National Guard personnel, according to a 12 September report in the "Bahrain Tribune." Iraqi Ambassador to Bahrain Ghassan Muhsin Husayn told the daily that a delegation from the Interior Ministry was expected to arrive in Manama this week to sign the training agreement. Details of the agreement were not reported. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

IRAQI INTERIOR MINISTER DISCUSSES TRIP TO SYRIA. Iraqi Interior Minister Falah al-Naqib told London's "Al-Hayat" in an interview published on 11 September that "a new chapter" has been opened in Iraqi-Syrian relations.

Al-Naqib said that the main purpose of his visit was to discuss security concerns. He said that he offered proposals, including a working paper that calls for the formation of security committees, as well as intelligence sharing. Al-Naqib said that border officials from both countries will meet to discuss the technicalities of joint patrols.

Baghdad's "Al-Mashriq" said in a 13 September commentary that Iraq should not call relations with Syria "normalized" until a number of outstanding issues are addressed. Those issues included the handover of what the daily called "former dangerous officials" from the deposed Hussein regime to the interim Iraqi government, and the transfer of frozen assets held in Syrian banks. (Kathleen Ridolfo)


KUWAIT HUMANITARIAN OPERATIONS CENTER REPORTS AID TO IRAQ. The Kuwait Humanitarian Operations Center (HOC), set up by the Kuwaiti government to provide aid to Iraq, has reported that nearly $9 million has been provided in the months since the liberation of Iraq, "Arab Times" reported on 12 September. HOC director Ali al-Momen said that the center does not discriminate in its humanitarian operations, citing that aid to the Sunni stronghold city of Al-Fallujah from March to August totaled $899,000. The HOC is also about to undertake a study requested by the Kuwaiti cabinet to manage a $5 million grant towards the renovation of Al-Najaf, which was riddled by fighting in August. Al-Momen is a former commander in chief of the Kuwaiti armed forces. He said that the HOC also coordinates with other Kuwaiti charities with regard to assistance. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

THE UN AND IRAQ
UN ENVOY WARNS LACK OF SECURITY HAMPERING WORK IN IRAQ. United Nations Special Representative to Iraq Ashraf Qazi delivered Secretary-General Kofi Annan's latest report to the Security Council on 14 September, saying that the cycle of violence in Iraq is obstructing the rebuilding process there, the UN News Center (http://www.un.org/news) reported the same day.

Qazi said that the United Nations Assistance Mission to Iraq (UNAMI) remains committed to supporting the electoral process in Iraq but cautioned, "The extent and scale of UNAMI activity in this regard will necessarily be determined by prevailing circumstances, including the security environment." The report notes that international staff in Iraq are "operating at the outer limit of acceptable and prudent risk," forcing a limited UN presence on the ground. UNAMI is currently based within the U.S.-controlled "green zone" in Baghdad. Reuters reported on 14 September that the UN's Baghdad-based international staff is limited to 35 people. UN Spokesman Fred Eckhard has said that about 200 international staff members would be returned to Iraq, but not until the security situation improves, Reuters reported. (Kathleen Ridolfo)


UNEP ANNOUNCES NEW ENVIRONMENTAL PROJECT. The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) announced on 14 September (http://www.unep.org) that it will lead coordination efforts to monitor environmental "hot spots" in Iraq under a new program of cooperation with the Iraqi Environment Ministry. The program is part of a long-term project to clean up Iraq after decades of environmental neglect. Iraqi scientists that are trained in the latest laboratory and field testing skills will carry out the tests at a number of contaminated sites to assess those sites' threats to human health, wildlife, and the environment in general, UNEP said. The scientists will share samples with UNEP's Post Conflict Assessment Unit (PCAU) in Geneva; those samples will be tested by independent laboratories in Europe. "We estimate that there are more than 300 sites in Iraq considered to be contaminated to various levels by a range of pollutants," said UNEP Executive Director Klaus Toepfer. He added that the pilot project will focus on as many as five pollutants.

The first 10 sites to be inspected include the Al-Mishraq State Company, where sulfur mining and sulfuric acid and aluminum sulfate manufacturing took place; the Al-Durah Refinery Stores, where more than 5,000 tons of chemicals, including tetra-ethyl lead is thought to have adversely affected nearby soil, vegetation, and water; and the Al-Suwayrah Seed Store where seeds were coated with methyl mercury fungicide. UNEP says that some 50 tons of contaminated seeds were stolen after Operation Iraqi Freedom; those seeds could potentially contaminate food supplies, particularly bread. All three of the above-mentioned sites were subject to UNMOVIC/IAEA inspection in the months leading up to the war (see RFE/RL's "Tracking Inspections" at http://www.rferl.org/specials/iraq-inspec/).

The $4.7 million project has been approved within the framework of the UN Trust Fund for Iraq and has received substantial financial support from the Japanese government, UNEP said. Japan will also be assisting the Environment Ministry in other areas including environmental law, natural resources management, and participation in multilateral environmental agreements. The project is the second environmental program to receive substantial assistance from Japan in recent weeks. The UN announced a Japanese-funded project to restore Iraq's marshlands on 23 July (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 30 July 2004). (Kathleen Ridolfo)


FIJIAN CABINET TO CONSIDER UN REQUEST FOR PROTECTION. The Fijian cabinet will soon consider a request by the UN for some 155 soldiers to guard the UN headquarters in Iraq, Suva's "Daily Post" reported on 14 September. The cabinet, which is expected to meet on 21 September, has held at least one other discussion on the issue. "We are still exploring other possibilities and contingencies," Foreign Affairs Minister Kaliopate Tavola said. Home Affairs Minister Joketani Cokanasiga has reportedly said that funding the Fijian mission remains a concern for the government. The United States and UN reportedly have asked Fiji to provide the initial funding. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

EUROPE, THE U.S., AND IRAQ
IRAQI INTERIM PRESIDENT CALLS FOR GREATER NATO ROLE. Ghazi Ajil al-Yawir addressed NATO leaders on 14 September in Brussels and called on the organization to play a greater role in establishing security in the country ahead of January elections, AFP reported the same day. "We want to have a secure and safe environment so that Iraqis can cast their votes without being intimidated or in fear," al-Yawir later told reporters. Al-Yawir said that NATO officials gave "a lot of words of support," but he was looking for concrete assistance. NATO's current commitment to Iraq is limited to training Iraqi security forces. NATO ambassadors are expected to discuss possibilities for expanding the organization's role in Iraq on 15 September, AFP reported. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

PARIS CLUB FAILS TO REACH CONSENSUS ON IRAQI DEBT. The Paris Club of creditor countries failed to reach a consensus on Iraq's debt during a 14 September meeting in the French capital, AFP reported. Iraqi and U.S. officials had called for at least an 80 percent debt write-off, but French and German officials have remained unwilling to write-off more than 50 percent of the debt. Iraq owes some $21 billion to the Paris Club creditor countries and holds about $120 billion in total debt. "It is true that no consensus was reached today within the Paris Club on the exact share of the cancellation which could be agreed for Iraq," a French Foreign Ministry spokesman said, and added: "There is nevertheless a consensus on the fact that the Iraqi debt is unsustainable and that this country therefore must benefit from the approach decided by the G-8 in Evian in 2003." That approach called for offering countries that are not considered heavily-indebted poor countries tailor-made debt rescheduling that might include the cancellation of some debt. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

NEW ALLEGATIONS OF PRISONER ABUSE SURFACE IN MOSUL. New allegations surfaced this week that U.S. soldiers in Mosul may have abused prisoners in the northern Iraqi city, London's "Guardian" reported on 14 September. Detainee statements accuse U.S. soldiers of beating and stripping detainees, threatening sexual abuse, and forcing them to listen to loud western music, according to the daily, which had access to the statements. Lawyers investigating the claims have reportedly turned over their information to the Pentagon and U.K. Defense Ministry.

One detainee, Yasir Rubay'i Sa'id al-Qutaji, an Iraqi lawyer, said in a statement that he was hooded and stripped naked in a building known as the "disco." He claims to have been subjected to loud music; cold water was poured on his body, and he was threatened with sexual abuse, "The Guardian" reported. "For the next 15 hours they tried to break me down by taking me frequently inside and repeating the stripping, cold water, and loud music sequence," he said. "Due to the very loud music, they would talk to me via a loudspeaker that was placed next to my ears," he added. Al-Qutaji claimed that other prisoners were burnt with fire, and reported seeing some with bandaged broken arms.

A second detainee, Haitham Sa'id al-Mallah, said that he was also taken to the "disco." "They left me standing for hours, handcuffed and hooded, which made me quite disoriented. Then I was kicked very hard on my stomach, which was followed by continuous beating with a stick and with their boots until I fell unconscious. I only woke up after they poured over my head very cold water, which caused me great suffering." He also claims to have been taken to a room where "group torture" occurred. "I heard nothing but screaming and suffering of detained Iraqis," he said. Al-Mallah also said that he and other detainees were prevented from using bathrooms, and many soiled themselves. Prisoners were also reportedly ordered to shout, "Long live the United States." Al-Mallah also said he saw a 14-year-old Kurdish boy bleeding from his anus and lying on the floor. He claims to have heard soldiers discussing the boy's situation, which they reportedly said came as a result of a metal object being inserted in his anus.

British lawyer Paul Shiner, who is investigating the case, provided statements by the two Iraqi detainees to both "The Guardian" and Reuters. An unidentified U.S. military spokesman said that he was surprised by the allegations, adding: "I have visited that facility up there and I've seen the good work that they've been doing," Reuters reported on 14 September. Shiner said of al-Qutaji's arrest: "The only reason he was detained was that he was working on documenting these cases of torture, at this prison and the Americans then went and detained him."

Reuters contends that three of its Iraqi employees were detained for three days by U.S. forces near Al-Fallujah in January and subjected to abuse that included sexual humiliation, anal abuse, beatings, stress positions, sleep deprivation, and disorientation through the use of bright lights and loud music. The U.S. Army investigated the claims but said it found no evidence of abuse. Reuters has said that the army refused to interview the Iraqis as part of the investigation.

Baghdad's Al-Sharqiyah television interviewed International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) spokeswoman Nada Dumani on 11 September regarding the findings of a U.S. investigation that determined that as many as 100 Iraqi prisoners were held secretly at Abu Ghurayb Prison in Baghdad. The prisoners' names were not relayed to the ICRC. "The U.S. administration had admitted that some persons were hidden from the ICRC, which was not aware of their detention and was not allowed to visit them, because, as the U.S. administration has said, they are considered ghost prisoners," Dumani said. She added that the holding of prisoners off the record is a violation of international humanitarian law, saying: "During the occupation period prior to 28 June, the then coalition forces should have recorded the names of all the detainees and should have allowed the ICRC to visit them. Only in exceptional cases and for security reasons is it permissible to postpone some visits." General Kern along with Lieutenant General Anthony Jones and Major General George Fay briefed reporters about their investigation into military intelligence activities at Abu Ghurayb on 25 August (http://fpc.state.gov/fpc/35738.htm). Kern acknowledged in that briefing that some military intelligence officers contributed to the abuse of detainees at Abu Ghurayb. "We found that 23 uniformed military personnel were alleged to be involved with abuse. In addition, four contractors, people who were hired to be part of the interrogation, were also in that category, for a total of 27," he said.

Military intelligence officer Army Specialist Armin Cruz pled guilty on 11 September to charges of prisoner abuse and conspiracy for his role in the Abu Ghurayb scandal, international media reported. Cruz admitted to handcuffing three detainees and forcing them to crawl on the ground. He also participated in the forcing of prisoners into a naked pile on the prison floor. Cruz said that he knew he was abusing the detainees at the time. He is the second soldier from Abu Ghurayb to plead guilty. Private Jeremy Sivits pled guilty in May to abuse charges. He was sentenced to one year in prison and a bad conduct discharge. Five other soldiers await courts martial in the abuse case, and others may still be charged.

Meanwhile, 19 British soldiers also face allegations of murder and brutality, telegraph.co.uk reported on 12 September. Three soldiers were expected to be charged with murder this week. It is alleged that the soldiers shot and killed an Iraqi civilian who had attacked a British soldier at a checkpoint; the Iraqi was allegedly killed after he no longer posed a threat to the British soldier. U.K. Trooper Kevin Williams appeared in a London court on 7 September on murder charges relating to the killing of an Iraqi lawyer in August, U.K. media reported. (Kathleen Ridolfo)


Compiled by Kathleen Ridolfo.

Copyright (c) 2004. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036. www.rferl.org



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