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Six charged with abusing Iraqis

By wire services
Published March 21, 2004

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Six U.S. soldiers were criminally charged Saturday with abusing and mistreating about 20 Iraqis at a military jail west of Baghdad. The charges, which include assault and sexual abuse, are among the most serious involving military detainees since the start of the war in Iraq.

The charges resulted from an investigation into abuses at the Abu Ghraib prison ordered by Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the top U.S. commander in Iraq.

The compound holds about 1,425 of the roughly 9,500 Iraqis confined by the U.S. military. Human rights advocates have complained about harsh treatment of the detainees, who are suspected of supporting terrorism or insurgency.

"We are committed to treating all persons under coalition control with dignity, respect and humanity," said Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, a military spokesman. "Coalition personnel are expected to act appropriately, humanely and in a manner consistent with the Geneva Conventions."

Kimmitt said he could not disclose the six soldiers' names, units or ranks before preliminary criminal hearings are held.

JOURNALISTS' DEATHS: The U.S. Army sharply questioned press reports about the killings of two Iraqi journalists working for the al-Arabiya television network. The journalists were shot dead Thursday near a military checkpoint outside a Baghdad hotel. About the same time, soldiers fearing a car bomb shot and killed the driver of a Volvo that had rammed a Humvee at 30 mph and tried to pass the roadblock.

Al-Arabiya officials said that the soldiers opened fire on the journalists' small all-terrain vehicle as the journalists drove away. Two dozen Arab journalists walked out of a news conference with Secretary of State Colin Powell to protest the slayings, and Sanchez opened an "urgent review."

A military spokesman said Saturday that the investigation was continuing but that forensic evidence indicated the soldiers may not have been responsible.

COPTER DOWNED: A U.S. military helicopter was downed by rebel fire west of Baghdad, but there were no injuries, the U.S. military said Saturday.

The downing occurred Friday near Amariya, south of Fallujah, said Kimmitt. Insurgents are active in the area.

"Both pilots were recovered without injury, and forces secured the crash site and completed recovery efforts," Kimmitt said.

[Last modified March 21, 2004, 01:35:34]

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