- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 29, 2003

Seven American prisoners of war have been taken from southern Iraq to Baghdad and are under the direct control of people close to Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, Bush administration officials said yesterday.
One Pentagon official said the expectation is that Saddam's regime will use the captives to score propaganda points by putting them on Iraqi television or forcing them to do an interview with the Arab-language Al Jazeera television network, based in Qatar. Both actions would be a violation of the Geneva Convention governing the treatment of POWs.
A U.S. official outside the Pentagon said, "I think that that is a fair statement" when told that Pentagon officials say the seven POWs are alive and in Baghdad. He spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The two principal allied combatants in the war against Iraq, the United States and Britain, have publicly accused Saddam's forces of assassinating their POWs.
"What has surprised me most, quite honestly, is that in nearly six days of ground fighting that the forces that are loyal to Saddam Hussein have already committed so many war crimes," said Marine Corps Gen. Peter Pace this week on CNN. "They have executed prisoners of war."
British Prime Minister Tony Blair said in Washington this week that Fedayeen paramilitary troops around Basra had executed two captured British soldiers.
Another Pentagon official said there is an unconfirmed report out of Iraq that Saddam's son Qusai, heir apparent to the presidency, is supervising how the captured soldiers are handled. Qusai is in charge of much of the Ba'ath Party's security apparatus, including the Republican Guard, which defends Baghdad, and the Special Republican Guard, which protects the city and Saddam's inner circle of supporters.
Both Pentagon officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, say there is no confirmed intelligence that Qusai is in charge of overseeing the American POWs. The U.S. official, however, said he doubted that Saddam's son had those duties.
Whether Saddam and his two sons, Qusai and the older Uday, are alive or dead is the subject of much speculation in U.S. intelligence agencies.
On the war's first night, March 19, the allies bombed a safe house on the southern outskirts of Baghdad, where Saddam, his sons and top aides were believed to be staying. The complex, known as Dora Farms, was hit by at least two 2,000-pound bunker-penetrating bombs and a number of sea-launched Tomahawk cruise missiles.
U.S. officials believe that people were killed but have no confirmed intelligence on their identities. The CIA and U.S. Central Command, which is running the war, believe that Saddam probably survived and has regained some control over his security and military forces.
After the bombing, a man resembling Saddam was seen being carried out of the rubble on a stretcher. But a Pentagon official said rescue workers had placed an oxygen mask over the victim, making eyewitness identification difficult.
There are seven known American POWs in Iraqi hands who were captured in two separate engagements.
Saddam's Fedayeen paramilitary troops took five U.S. soldiers captive Sunday after ambushing their lost supply convoy in Nasiriyah, in southern Iraq. Military officials believe that Fedayeen troops executed two or three soldiers at the scene with gunshots to the forehead. Iraqi forces videotaped their bodies and the five surviving captives in a hospital that was turned into a military command center before they were taken to Baghdad.
On Tuesday, Iraqi forces shot down an Apache helicopter attacking a Republican Guard division near Najaf, south of Baghdad. Two aviators of the 11th Helicopter Attack Regiment were taken as POWs and shown on Iraqi television.
Iraq has a history of mistreating POWs. It took 23 American captives during the Desert Storm campaign in 1991 and mistreated all of them. Former prisoners recounted how they were beaten repeatedly, then were forced to read statements broadcast on Arab television.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld issued a blunt warning yesterday to Saddam's regime not to mistreat POWs.
"To the officials of the Iraqi regime: The defeat, your defeat, is inevitable, and you will be held accountable for your conduct in this war," he said. "The coalition POWs that you are holding must be treated according to the Geneva Conventions. And any Iraqi officials involved in their mistreatment, humiliation or execution will pay a severe price."

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