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|173 starving tortured Sunnis in US building, US an|
|11/18/05 at 11:52:27|
|173 Prisoners Found Beaten and Starved in Iraq Government Bunker |
uploaded 16 Nov 2005
PM's deputy leads inquiry into torture allegations; Reports of corpses among malnourished inmates
by Jamie Wilson
The Iraqi government has begun an investigation into the alleged abuse of more than 170 prisoners who were found locked in an interior ministry bunker in Baghdad, many of them beaten and malnourished and some apparently brutally tortured.
US troops who were searching for a missing teenage boy discovered the detainees on Sunday night during a raid. They were found in an underground cell near an interior ministry bunker in Jadiriya, in middle of the city. "I was informed that there were 173 detainees held at an interior ministry prison and they appear to be malnourished," prime minister Ibrahim Jaafari said. "There is talk that they were subjected to torture," he said.
Earlier a deputy interior minister put the number of prisoners at 161 and said he was stunned by their treatment. "They were being treated in an inappropriate way ... they were being abused," Hussein Kamal told Reuters.
"I've never seen such a situation like this during the past two years in Baghdad. This is the worst," he told CNN. "I saw signs of physical abuse by brutal beating, one or two detainees were paralysed and some had their skin peeled off."
US military sources said troops were shocked when they came across the prisoners, some of whom showed the marks of beatings and looked like they had not been fed well for weeks. "It's not what we expected, we were looking for a 15-year-old boy," a soldier from the US 3rd Infantry Division, the Baghdad-based force which conducted the raid, told Reuters.
Reports received by the Guardian from sources in Baghdad said there were rumours that mutilated corpses and torture instruments had also been found at the underground bunker, including bodies with electric drill holes in their heads.
Mohsen Abdul-Hamid, the head of the country's largest Sunni political party, told the Associated Press he had personally spoken to Mr Jaafari and other government officials about torture at interior ministry detention centres, including the one where the detainees were found. But, he said, the government routinely dismissed his complaints, calling the prisoners "former regime elements."
"According to our knowledge, regrettably, all the detainees were Sunnis," said Mr Abdul-Hamid, head of the Iraqi Islamic Party. "In order to search for a terrorist, they used to detain hundreds of innocent people and torture them brutally."
Most insurgents are Sunni Arabs, who were dominant under Saddam Hussein's regime but lost power after he was ousted. The interior ministry is controlled by Shias, and Sunni leaders have accused Shia dominated security forces of detaining, torturing and killing hundreds of Sunnis simply because of their religious affiliation. Mr Jaafari, who is a Shia, said one of his deputies will be heading the investigating committee, which will include some ministers and is due to finish its work within two weeks. "They should investigate how this happened and how it reached this point," Mr Jaafari said.
Meanwhile in Washington two Iraqi businessmen detained by US forces in 2003 have claimed soldiers threw them into a cage of lions, pretended to be executing them, and carried out other acts of torture during months in captivity.
Sherzad Khalid, 35, and Thahe Sabbar, 37, are suing defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other US officials in a federal court in Washington. They said they had been abused because they could not tell their captors where Saddam Hussein was hiding, and knew nothing about weapons of mass destruction.
"That was a terrifying moment for me," Mr Khalid told the Washington Post on Monday, describing how three times he was shoved into a lions' cage at a presidential palace in Baghdad, and then soldiers lined him up for a mock execution. "I was wondering if it could be real that the American army would act this way."
Speaking at a press conference yesterday, Mr Rumsfeld said their accounts sounded "far fetched" and said it was common for detainees to make up allegations of torture. However, the army said it was looking into the claims.
Source: Guardian UK
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