- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 20, 2004

From combined dispatches

BAGHDAD — The U.S. military yesterday charged six soldiers with offenses including cruelty, mistreatment and assault following a criminal investigation into charges of prisoner abuse at a jail in Iraq.

Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, the deputy director of operations for the U.S. military in Iraq, said the soldiers, all from a military police battalion, had been suspended from duty pending further investigation ahead of any trial.

He did not disclose the soldiers’ names or ranks.

The charges relate to accusations of abuses carried out in November and December last year on around 20 detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison on the western outskirts of Baghdad. The investigation was launched in January this year.

Abu Ghraib, a notorious prison under Saddam Hussein, is where the U.S. military now holds several thousand prisoners, most of them rounded up on suspicion of carrying out attacks against U.S.-led forces.

Gen. Kimmitt said a total of 17 military personnel were suspended from duty or reassigned while the investigation was conducted.

It is not the first case of suspected prisoner abuse in Iraq. On Jan. 5, the U.S. Army said three soldiers had been discharged for abusing Iraqi prisoners of war at Camp Bucca in southern Iraq. The soldiers said they acted in self-defense.

The U.S. Army has said it is also investigating the treatment of three Iraqis working for Reuters and one working for the U.S. network NBC who were detained on Jan. 2 while covering the aftermath of the shooting down of a U.S. helicopter and held near the town of Fallujah for three days.

On the killing of two Arab TV journalists at a Baghdad checkpoint last week, Gen. Kimmitt said U.S. soldiers may not have been responsible for it, but added that the military would investigate the incident further.

Dubai-based news channel Al Arabiya says two of its journalists, traveling in a small all-terrain vehicle, were shot by U.S. troops near a military checkpoint Thursday night after another vehicle drove through the road block.

But Gen. Kimmitt said as far as the U.S. Army could ascertain, its troops were only responsible for shooting and killing the driver of the vehicle that drove through the checkpoint.

He said the Army had counted the rounds fired by U.S. troops at the car that drove through the checkpoint and had failed to account for only two bullets. He said autopsies had shown that at least five bullets struck the Al Arabiya journalists.

He acknowledged that Iraqi police and paramilitaries had also been manning the checkpoint, but could not say whether they had fired their weapons.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Army said a 1st Infantry Division soldier was fatally electrocuted while working on communication equipment at a military base in Baqouba, north of Baghdad. And near Taji, also north of the capital, one soldier died and two were wounded after their vehicle rolled over Thursday, the military said.

A U.S. military helicopter was shot down Friday by rebels near the town of Amariya, west of Baghdad. The two crewmen escaped injury and the helicopter was recovered, Gen. Kimmitt said.

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