U.S. Accuses 11 Soldiers of Abuse


New York Times

July 16, 2005

BAGHDAD, Iraq, July 16 - Eleven American soldiers are under investigation on charges of assaulting Iraqi detainees shortly after their capture during what military officials said was an attack on a power plant in southern Baghdad, the American military command said Saturday.

Officials did not disclose the nature of the allegations but said none of the detainees required medical treatment for injuries.

In response to the allegations, the military took the extraordinary step of removing the soldiers' entire company, about 100 soldiers, from active duty while the investigation was under way, the military announced.

The uncovering of other cases of abuse against Iraqi detainees, particularly the mistreatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib disclosed last year, has severely cost the American military support among Iraqis.

Lt. Col. Clifford Kent, a spokesman for the military in Baghdad, said the incident occurred after the detainees were captured "in the act of attacking" a power plant in the Dora neighborhood of south Baghdad on June 20. There were seven detainees in the group, he said, but it was unclear how many were being considered as possible victims of abuse.

The allegations were made by one of the company's soldiers soon after the event, and initial charges were filed Wednesday, the spokesman said.

Six of the detainees were eventually released to the Iraqi police, and the seventh remains in the custody of coalition forces, Colonel Kent said.

The charges, if proved, could lead to a range of punishments, the most serious being a court-martial.

"We take this thing very seriously and will investigate it seriously," Colonel Kent said.

Also on Saturday, three British soldiers were killed and two were wounded by a roadside bomb in Maysan Province, and Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari led a high-level delegation to Iran for a three-day trip intended to mend relations with a former enemy.

The British military said the attack against its troops happened early Saturday morning on a road in Amara, a mostly Shiite city near the Iranian border. It brought the number of British deaths in Iraq since the 2003 invasion to 92. Television images showed a deep crater in the road where the explosion occurred.

There was no immediate confirmation of who staged the attack, but British military officials believe that recent attacks on their troops have been by militia fighters loyal to the Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr.

After the January elections, Mr. Sadr gained control of the Maysan provincial council and broke off formal relations with the British command, according to a senior Sadr representative in Basra.

The new Shiite-dominated government in Iraq has sought to mend ties with Iran, a predominantly Shiite country, and put an end to political tensions that peaked during the Iran-Iraq war from 1980 to 1988. Prime Minister Jaafari's three-day visit is his first to Iran in his new official role.

During the rule of Saddam Hussein, Iran was a safe haven for many Shiite opposition leaders, including Mr. Jaafari, and Iran was among the first countries to recognize the Iraqi government.

Iran promised last week to contribute $1 billion to Iraqi reconstruction efforts after Defense Minister Sadoun al-Dulaimi of Iraq made a formal apology for the war crimes committed under Mr. Hussein and pledged not to allow Iraqi soil to be used for attacks against Iran.

In a major agreement announced this month, the countries agreed to build a pipeline between the two southern cities of Basra in Iraq and Abadan in Iran to trade oil.

Iran's oil minister, Bijan Namdar Zanganeh, said Iran would receive 370,000 to 380,000 barrels of crude oil per day from Iraq to feed its refinery in Abadan and would sell the same amount on behalf of Iraq at its terminal in Khark Island.

The two countries resumed diplomatic ties in 2003 when Foreign Minister Naji Sabri came to Iran. But the two countries have not yet signed a peace treaty, and Iran is still demanding billions of dollars in repatriation. Iraq has also demanded that Iran return 22 planes that Mr. Hussein sent to Iran before the 1991 Persian Gulf war. Iran has said it will return the planes only if the United Nations asks for them.

The United States has accused Iran of meddling in affairs of Iraq, but the departing Iranian president, Mohammad Khatami, said last week that Iran did not want to export its Islamic revolution. "Years has passed since this misunderstanding," he said in a television interview. In Iraq, he said, "even though the majority of Iraqis are Shiite, we never allowed ourselves to impose our model on them."

In other violence in Iraq on Saturday, an American convoy was attacked by a suicide bomber driving a minibus, wounding a civilian, an official at the Interior Ministry said. Several hours later, a suicide car bomber attacked a convoy of commandos from the Interior Ministry in the Dora neighborhood of Baghdad, killing two commandos and wounding 11, including 4 civilians, the Interior Ministry official said.

Nazila Fathi contributed reporting from Tehran for this article.