U.S. forces investigating allegations that prisoners taken in raid were beaten

Monday, February 11th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has asked for an investigation into allegations that Afghans mistakenly taken prisoner by U.S. military forces in a raid last month were later beaten and mistreated.

Victoria Clarke, chief spokeswoman for Rumsfeld, said Monday that the military ``has nothing to indicate that anything like that happened,'' but is looking into it nonetheless in the wake of newspaper reports.

The inquiry is part of an investigation by the U.S. military into the Jan. 23 raid in the village of Kas Uruzgan north of Kandahar, in which 19 people were killed. U.S. commanders acknowledged last week that they mistakenly took 27 prisoners in the raid, believing they were al-Qaida and Taliban warriors.

The 27 were released last week. Several contended in reports in The New York Times and The Washington Post that they were beaten and kept in a cage with wooden bars during their detention in Kandahar.

Questioned about the reports Monday, Clarke said Rumsfeld and Gen. Tommy Franks, commander of the Afghan war, are still looking for answers.

``The investigation is still ongoing. The secretary and General Franks have asked for more information about those allegations,'' Clarke said. ``We have nothing to indicate anything like that happened. Right now, there's nothing that leads us to believe anything like that happened.''

On another matter, Clarke said a U.S. team of 50 individuals has found the impact site of the Feb. 4 Hellfire missile strike by a CIA-operated Predator drone, in which an unknown number of individuals were killed.

The team has recovered ``small pieces of bone and human flesh,'' as well as some documents, a number of small weapons and some ammunition, Clarke said.

``The materials will be sent back for further analysis,'' she said, declining to define exactly what was being examined.

Asked about reports from the scene that those who were killed were peasants gathering scrap metal, Clarke said, ``We haven't seen or heard anything that leads us to believe that it was anything other than what we thought the target was.''

Clarke repeatedly said the attack was not conducted by the Defense Department, but would not say which agency was responsible. Other officials have said it was the Central Intelligence Agency.

American officials said last week they believed the targets were al-Qaida members, in part because of their Arab-style dress.

At a Pentagon news briefing Friday, Rumsfeld said the Defense Department did not know exactly who was targeted in the attack.

``The strike was on some individuals. Who is to be determined,'' said Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.