Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Army is investigating the deaths of several Iraqi detainees after a soldier reported misconduct regarding members of his unit to military officials, an Army spokesman said yesterday.

“It came forward [as a result of] information provided by a soldier,” Army spokesman Paul Boyce told The Washington Times, although he would not describe what sort of misconduct the soldier reported.

“It happened sometime during the spring or summer of 2007. We are here to determine the facts, speak with potential witnesses and pursue other investigative leads wherever it may take us,” he said.

Mr. Boyce said the Army Criminal Investigation Command is in the “early phase” of the probe. He said investigators are questioning soldiers from the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, who were assigned to Multi-National Corps Iraq from 2006 to 2007.

Christopher Grey, spokesman for the Army Criminal Investigation Command, said details will not be released in order “to protect the integrity of the case” during the investigation.

“We are aggressively pursuing the allegations,” he said. “As with all of our criminal investigations, we take allegations of this nature very seriously and are determined to get to the truth.”

The incident involved the capture of Iraqis during combat operations in the Rashid district, southwest of Baghdad, Mr. Boyce said. He said “at this point” military officials could not provide details or circumstances surrounding the incident or how many Iraqi detainees died.

“Preliminary findings indicate the deceased detainees were not persons detained in a detention facility,” an Army press release stated.

Instead, military officials said, the detainees died while being held by U.S. soldiers after they were captured as part of combat operations.

Last spring, U.S. troops conducted an operation in the Rashid district known as Operation Dragon Fire West. The operation began on May 2 and, according to the Department of Defense, netted 22 of the detainees and 11 weapons caches in its first four days. In addition, 28 combined operations, at company level or higher, were conducted in and around Baghdad from April 29 through May 6, according to the Defense Department.

Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said the charge is being investigated and that he thinks the Army Criminal Investigation Command has “even requested assistance from other soldiers who may have been in this unit at that time.”

The soldiers involved in the incident were stationed at U.S. Army Garrison Schweinfurt, Germany, before being deployed to Iraq in 2006. They returned to Schweinfurt in November.

Mr. Boyce said investigators are questioning soldiers involved in the incident.

“It will be a process of talking to individuals and getting them to travel back through their memories to more than six months ago to understand what happened,” Mr. Boyce said.

Investigators are asking soldiers or personnel to report any information they have regarding the incident.

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