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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

21 May 2004

Kimmitt says U.S. forces adhere to Geneva Conventions

Coalition Provisional Report, May 21: Iraq Update

Army Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt, deputy director of operations for the Multinational Force in Iraq, says coalition forces "adhere to the Geneva Conventions in the conduct of detention and interrogation operations."

Kimmitt told reporters at Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) headquarters in Baghdad May 21 that interrogation techniques used in Iraq are approved at a high level, and if violations occur "they are investigated and, as necessary, prosecuted." He denounced a May 20 news report alleging new abuse and torture at Iraqi detention facilities, saying that "any suggestion that torture is used is false and offensive."

When asked if any interrogation methods that violate the Geneva Conventions are being used by the U.S. military at any facility in Iraq, Kimmitt answered: "Absolutely not."

Kimmitt also reported that 454 more detainees were released from Abu Ghraib prison on May 21, and close to 400 more would be freed on May 28. More than 4,500 detainees have been released from the prison since January.

The military officer also made a point of saying that no officials from the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, or the Central Intelligence Agency participated in a series of recent raids on property associated with Ahmed Chalabi and the Iraqi National Congress. The Iraqi police carried out the raid, he said, although some U.S. forces were nearby in a support role in case violence occurred.

He also said there were private contractors present who work for the Iraqi Ministry of Interior, but "they were not there at the direction of the coalition." The contractors were there to observe the Iraqi police in action, because they are working with them to improve their professionalism, Kimmitt said.

CPA spokesman Dan Senor answered a question about why Defense Department funding of the Iraqi National Congress (INC) has ceased. It would be inappropriate for the U.S. government to continue funding individual political parties as the June 30 deadline approaches for the transfer of sovereignty to an Iraqi government, he said.

"The INC was funded when it was obviously a vehicle of opposition to the Saddam Hussein regime and continued to be a source that was helpful in our overall efforts in the reconstruction of Iraq during this period," he explained. But by July 1 the United States will be engaging bilaterally with the new Iraqi government, the spokesman said.

Kimmitt also answered questions about coalition military action in al-Qaim near the Iraq-Syrian border earlier in the week. There have been reports that women and children attending a family wedding were among the victims of the action but, he said, no children were reported killed by the Americans on the ground. The soldiers "told us they did not shoot women and children," he said. However, he acknowledged that some women may have been "caught up in the engagement" and killed by firepower from aircraft called in to provide close air support to the ground forces.

That military operation along an identified foreign infiltration route had been prompted by credible, multiple intelligence sources, Kimmitt said. He also said "pieces of equipment characteristic of those that would be used by foreign fighters" were collected at the scene. "We're keeping an open mind as to exactly what happened on the ground. That's why we're continuing to try to gather all the facts," he added.

When asked to assess the situation in Fallujah, Kimmitt said "measurable progress" had been made. "We have Iraqi control back in the city. We soon will have joint patrols throughout the city. We are starting to see some of the heavy weapons being turned in," he said. The most recent cease-fire violation occurred on May 3.

Senor also responded, saying that the coalition remains committed to the goal of seeing Muqtada al-Sadr disarm and demobilize his private militia, and ensuring that the cleric is brought to justice for his alleged involvement in the murder of another religious leader.

Muhammed Ibrahim al-Juraissey, the mayor of Fallujah; Major General James Mattis, the commanding general of the 1st Marine Division; and representatives of the Fallujah Brigade will be holding a press conference May 22 to discuss accomplishments there, including the weapons collection program. A May 20 Marine press release said the Fallujah Brigade "is demonstrating a growing effectiveness as an Iraqi security force."

Asked about reports that an al-Jazeera television reporter may have been killed in Karbala, Kimmitt said he had no information about it. Speculating, he said: "It could well be that the Jazeera reporter was with a group of Muqtada (al-Sadr) militia when they were conducting attacks on coalition forces."

Kimmitt also reported that two individuals are being detained in Iraq as a result of "some intelligence that would suggest they had knowledge -- perhaps some culpability" in the beheading of American civilian Nicholas Berg sometime between April 10 and May 8. Questioning continues, he said, to determine if they really are associated with his murder.

(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

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