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U.S. Counts 108 Deaths in Custody in Iraq, Afghanistan

From Times Wire Services

At least 108 people have died in U.S. custody in Iraq and Afghanistan, and 26 of those cases have been confirmed or are suspected to be criminal homicides, newly released government statistics show.

The figures, far higher than any previously disclosed, include cases investigated by the Army, Navy, CIA and Justice Department. About 65,000 prisoners have been taken during the U.S.-led wars, most of whom have been freed.

The Pentagon has not provided comprehensive information on how many prisoners detained in Iraq and Afghanistan have died. The 108 figure, based on information supplied by Army, Navy and other government officials, includes deaths attributed to natural causes.

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The Army investigated 24 cases of suspected criminal homicide and the Navy investigated two. At least 11 cases of suspected justifiable homicides were also investigated.

Some investigations have resulted in courts-martial and convictions, others in reprimands. Many are still open. In some cases, during riots and escape attempts, soldiers were found to have used deadly force properly.

The most serious sentence imposed in the completed cases is three years’ imprisonment, which was given to two soldiers in separate cases.

Pfc. Edward Richmond was convicted of voluntary manslaughter for shooting Muhamad Husain Kadir, an Iraqi cowherd, in the back of the head on Feb. 28, 2004; Richmond said he saw Kadir lunge for another soldier.

Staff Sgt. Johnny M. Horne Jr. pleaded guilty to killing a critically wounded Iraqi teenager in the Sadr City section of Baghdad on Aug. 18, 2004. Horne described it as a mercy killing.

Col. Joe Curtin, a Pentagon spokesman, said: “The Army is absolutely committed to getting to the truth involved in each of these cases. One case is one too many. We are aggressively investigating allegations of detainee abuse.”

But some human rights groups said the statistics were proof that there is a systemic problem in the military that has led to abuses.

“Despite the military’s own reports of deaths and abuses of detainees in U.S. custody, it is astonishing that our government can still pretend that what is happening is the work of a few rogue soldiers,” said Anthony D. Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union.

“No one at the highest levels of our government has yet been held accountable for the torture and abuse, and that is unacceptable.”


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