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U.S. Ups Number Of Probes Into Prisoner Abuse

22 May 2004 -- The Pentagon says it has investigated the deaths of 37 detainees held by U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan since August 2002.

The figure represents eight more cases than reported two weeks ago.

News agencies quoted anonymous U.S. officials as saying 32 deaths occurred in Iraq and five in Afghanistan. Eight pending cases have reportedly been classified as homicides involving suspected assaults of detainees before or during interrogation sessions.

The U.S. Justice Department also announced overnight that it is investigating unspecified allegations against a civilian contractor working inside an Iraqi prison. No details were given.

The U.S. military in Afghanistan has named a long-standing general to carry out a review of U.S. detention facilities in the country, officials announced today. Brigadier General Charles Jacoby will visit each of the around 20 U.S. detention facilities in Afghanistan, including the main one at Bagram air base, north of Kabul.

"The Washington Post" on 21 May published more photographs showing U.S. soldiers apparently physically and sexually abusing detainees in Iraq. On 19 May, the first U.S. soldier accused in the abuse scandal was sentenced to one year in prison.

Britain's attorney general meanwhile said that government prosecutors are considering whether to put a British soldier on trial over the killing of an Iraqi civilian. The statement -- issued late yesterday by Attorney General Lord Peter Goldsmith's office -- did not identify the soldier, and gave few details. It said government prosecutors are considering the allegations because the soldier's commanding officer had dismissed the case and therefore the soldier cannot be tried by court martial.

U.K. authorities have promised to fully investigate all allegations of abuse and illegal behavior by British soldiers in Iraq.

Also in Iraq, U.S. forces again fought armed supporters of Muqtada al-Sadr in several Iraqi cities on 21 May, as the Shi'ite cleric and militia leader called on his followers to resist U.S. coalition forces regardless of what happens to him.

Al-Sadr used his weekly Friday sermon to rally his supporters while U.S. forces fought with insurgents in the Shi'ite-dominated cities of Kufa, Al-Najaf, and Karbala.

The U.S. military said 18 insurgents were killed in Karbala on 21 May, as some 2,000 protesters called on al-Sadr's militia to leave the holy Shi'ite city. There were reports that at least six Iraqis were killed in fighting in Kufa and Al-Najaf.

In Washington yesterday, U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said there has been movement toward a new UN resolution on Iraq.

"We do feel there is very substantial agreement on the basic elements of a resolution; on the need to endorse and encourage the new government; endorse the political process that's under way leading to elections; provide for the vital roles that the United Nations can play; provide for the continuation of the multinational force; and make sure that it's clear that various assets like the development fund are turned over into Iraqi hands," Boucher said.

U.S. officials are hoping for a new UN Security Council resolution on Iraq before handing over power to an interim Iraqi government at the end of June.

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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