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US Military says Changes Made at Afghan Prison Camp After 2 Deaths - 2004-05-11

The top U.S. military commander in Afghanistan says the main U.S.-run prison camp there made major changes last year, after two detainees died while in custody.

Lieutenant General David Barno said procedures at the central U.S. prison camp in Bagram, Afghanistan, have improved over the past year.

General Barno cited changes made in the months after two Afghan prisoners died of alleged injuries at the Bagram facility in December 2002. "There were a number of very significant changes made to the operation of the facility in the early 2003 time frame. We've had no complaints of detainee abuse on record since that period of time," he said.

The U.S. commander did not say whether there had been abuses at the prison camp before those changes were made, but he acknowledged that former detainees have lodged complaints of mistreatment.

The U.S. military has refused to discuss details of the two deaths at the Bagram prison camp, as well as a third death at a different facility last June. Officials say such information will be made available when they finish their investigations into the incidents.

General Barno's comments come amid a scandal involving apparent abuse of Iraqi prisoners by U.S. prison guards.

General Barno said in Afghanistan, he and his officers have worked closely with Red Cross representatives. "I personally met with them, and their input is very important. And they effectively provide that outside set of eyes to look at what we're doing and to give us insights and advice," he said.

He added that U.S. forces are also trying to limit the length of time detainees spend at peripheral prison camps in the countryside, before being transferred to the main facility at Bagram.

The majority of public allegations of abuse at U.S. military prisons in Afghanistan involve these regional prison camps, rather than the larger Bagram facility.