- The Washington Times - Friday, January 27, 2006

The U.S. Army in Iraq has at least twice seized and jailed the wives of suspected insurgents in hopes of “leveraging” their husbands into surrender, U.S. military documents show.

In one case, a secretive task force locked up the young mother of a nursing baby, a U.S. intelligence officer reported. In the case of a second detainee, one American colonel suggested to another that they catch her husband by tacking a note to the family’s door telling him “to come get his wife.”

The issue of female detentions in Iraq has taken on a higher profile since kidnappers seized American journalist Jill Carroll on Jan. 7 and threatened to kill her unless all female Iraqi detainees are freed.

The U.S. military on Thursday freed five of what it said were 11 women among the 14,000 detainees currently held in the 21/2-year-old insurgency. All were accused of “aiding terrorists or planting explosives,” but an Iraqi government commission found that evidence was lacking.

Iraqi human rights activist Hind al-Salehi contends that U.S. anti-insurgent units, coming up empty-handed in raids on suspects’ houses, have at times detained wives to pressure men into turning themselves in.

Iraq’s deputy justice minister, Busho Ibrahim Ali, dismissed such claims, saying hostage-holding was a tactic used under the ousted Saddam Hussein dictatorship, and “we are not Saddam.” A U.S. command spokesman in Baghdad, Lt. Col. Barry Johnson, said only Iraqis who pose an “imperative threat” are held in long-term U.S.-run detention facilities.

But documents, released periodically under U.S. court order to meet an American Civil Liberties Union request for information on detention practices, describing two 2004 episodes suggest otherwise.

In one memo, a civilian Pentagon intelligence officer wrote that a woman was held “in order to leverage the primary target’s surrender.”

“The 28-year-old woman had three young children at the house, one being as young as six months and still nursing,” the intelligence officer wrote. She was held for two days and was released after he complained, he said.

The second episode, in June 2004, is found in e-mail exchanges between six U.S. Army colonels, discussing female detainees held in northern Iraq by the Stryker Brigade of the 2nd Infantry Division.

“CG wants the husband,” the command staff colonel wrote, referring to a commanding general.

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