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US Releases 900 Iraqi POWs - 2003-04-18

Even as coalition forces work to capture Iraq's most wanted regime figures, other Iraqi battlefield detainees are now being released.

Defense officials say coalition authorities have released more than 900 Iraqi prisoners in recent days, after determining they were non-combatants - that is, individuals who were not in Iraq's military, and who did not engage in hostile wartime activities.

In addition, special hearings were held for seven other prisoners to decide their status. Four were found to be lawfully detained combatants and kept in detention. One was found to be a doctor or chaplain and retained to assist other Iraqi prisoners. Two were found to be non-combatants, and released.

Pentagon officials say some 6,800 prisoners remain in coalition custody. A defense spokesman says the sorting out process will continue, to determine if others can be released. The spokesman says coalition authorities do not want to hold anyone longer than absolutely necessary.