- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 16, 2003

BAGHDAD — Six persons claiming to be Americans and two who say they are British are in U.S. custody on suspicion of involvement in attacks on coalition forces in Iraq, an American general said yesterday. They would be the first Westerners reported held in the insurrection against the U.S.-led occupation.

Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, in charge of coalition detention centers in Iraq, said the purported Americans and Britons were considered security detainees, meaning they were suspected of involvement in guerrilla attacks.

She did not identify the captives but said they were being interrogated by military intelligence.

When pressed for details about those being held, she declined to give any other information.

“We’re not trying to withhold information from you. Some information remains classified for security reasons,” Gen. Karpinski said during a tour of Abu Ghraib prison, where Saddam Hussein locked up his political opponents and where the eight were in custody.

Asked about the detainees at a Pentagon news conference, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said: “The truth is that the folks that we’ve scooped up have, on a number of occasions, multiple identifications from different countries. They’re quite skilled at confusing people as to what their real nationality is or where they came from or what they’re doing.”

Mr. Rumsfeld said he had no additional information on the detainees.

If Westerners are active in the resistance, it would deepen confusion about what groups are involved. The guerrilla fighters initially were thought to be Saddam loyalists, but U.S. officials in recent weeks said they were being joined by foreign fighters, possibly members of the al Qaeda terror network.

The revelation recalled the capture of John Walker Lindh in Afghanistan, where the American fought alongside Taliban and al Qaeda fighters after the September 11 attacks.

Lindh was sentenced last year to 20 years in prison after pleading guilty to supplying services to the Taliban militia, which ruled Afghanistan and was ousted by a U.S.-led coalition.

American troops in Afghanistan also captured Yaser Esam Hamdi, who was flown to the U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and held there for several months until it was discovered that he was born in Baton Rouge, La. He is being held in a Navy brig in Norfolk.

At least nine Britons are detained in Guantanamo, where some 660 men from 42 countries are held on suspicion of links to the Taliban or al Qaeda.

Meanwhile, U.S. troops of the 4th Infantry Division killed two Iraqis and wounded two others in a gunbattle late Monday outside an ammunition dump in Tikrit. Another man was captured and two others fled after the apparent attempt to loot the depot, division spokeswoman Maj. Josslyn Aberle said.

U.S. officials said troops of the 4th Infantry Division also late Monday carried out 242 patrols in three provinces, including 24 jointly with Iraqi security forces. Twenty-eight Iraqis were arrested.

They included two persons taken prisoner in Samarra during a raid in which 13 sticks of plastic explosives were seized along with blasting caps and nine mortar rounds, officials said.

Insurgents also have targeted Iraqis who work with coalition forces. On Monday, the police chief in the Sunni Muslim town of Khaldiya was killed in a roadside ambush as he was returning to his home in Fallujah, scene of growing criminal violence and guerrilla resistance to the American occupation of Iraq.

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