Wed, Jun 02, 2004 - Page 7 News List

US Army to investigate theft reports

MISCONDUCT The military said that it is looking into allegations that US soldiers assaulted and robbed Iraqi civilians during routine raids, and promised action


A group of US Army soldiers from the First Cavalry Division walks past concertina wire in the late afternoon at Camp Black Jack near Baghdad on Monday. Some 130,000 US soldiers are currently in Iraq.


The Army is investigating reports of assaults against Iraqi civilians and thefts of their money and jewelry by US troops during patrols, raids and house searches, defense officials said on Monday.

The probe by the US Army's Criminal Investigation Division (CID) suggests that a major scandal over abuse of Iraqi prisoners by Americans goes beyond detention centers into the homes and streets of the troubled country.

"There are a number of criminal investigations by the Army into allegations of assault, theft and other issues that extend beyond the investigations into activities at detention facilities," Defense Department spokesman Bryan Whitman said.

"I am not aware whether any of those CID investigations have been concluded," he said in response to questions about the reported incidents that have drawn angry complaints from Iraqis.

Whitman and other defense officials, who asked not to be identified, confirmed a report in The New York Times on Monday that the investigations of misconduct by troops had spread beyond detention centers such as the infamous Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad.

Some US soldiers have been charged with physically and sexually abusing prisoners at the prison and investigators are also looking at other centers in Iraq and Afghanistan in a scandal that has inflamed the Arab world and undermined US efforts in Iraq ahead of the June 30 handover to an interim Iraqi government.

The Times reported that the Army was also investigating at least two dozen other cases, including the suspected theft of cash from Iraqis stopped by soldiers at roadside checkpoints, apparently under the pretext of confiscating money from suspected insurgents or their financial backers.

Iraqis have accused US troops of stealing money and other property during what they said were aggressive and even destructive American raids on homes.

"It's a huge problem. Almost everyone has something to say about gold, money and other valuables going missing and they don't believe they'll ever get them back," Adel Alami, a lawyer with Iraq's Human Rights Organization, said recently in Baghdad.

Over the past 14 months of occupation, US forces have carried out thousands of raids on homes of Iraqis suspected of "anti-coalition activities."

The US military says items are generally confiscated on suspicion they could be used to finance attacks against US-led forces.

A spokesman for the US-led coalition in Baghdad said last week he was aware of Iraqi complaints of theft during raids and that some US soldiers had been disciplined for "inappropriate conduct."

He said a receipt was always given for confiscated items and if the owner was found to be innocent they could get the property back. But many Iraqis say no receipts were provided and raids often target the wrong people.

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