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US Forces in Afghanistan Deny Prisoner Mistreatment - 2004-05-05

U.S. forces in Afghanistan say they are not mistreating prisoners, despite the concerns of human rights groups.

Evidence of U.S. troops committing apparent human rights abuses against prisoners in Iraq has revived concern over U.S. treatment of captives in Afghanistan.

U.S. military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Tucker Mansager told reporters in Kabul that all prisoners in Afghanistan are treated according to international standards.

He said they are given adequate food and medical attention, but declined to give further details.

?We do not discuss the procedures that go on inside the confinement facility as a matter of operational security. What I can say though, is the International Committee of the Red Cross visits that facility on a regular basis,? Mr. Mansager said.

But several human rights groups have criticized the treatment of captives in Afghanistan, pointing to local reports alleging abuse by the U.S. forces.

The U.S.-based advocacy group Human Rights Watch notes that findings by the Red Cross are not made public and that other humanitarian organizations are not allowed access to the prisoner camps.

They add that at least three Afghan prisoners have died while in custody, but the U.S. forces have yet to offer an explanation.

The military says it is investigating those deaths, the most recent of which occurred last June. Military officials say they will release their findings when the investigations conclude.

Many of the prisoners held at Afghanistan's four U.S.-run prison camps were captured during the 2001 war, which led to the ousting of Afghanistan's former Taleban regime.

Fighters loyal to the Taleban continue to wage an armed insurgency, centered in the east and south of the country.

They have increased attacks on Afghan and U.S. targets during the past month, in what officials believe is an effort to disrupt plans to hold a national election in September.

Afghan officials say three election workers, including two foreigners, were killed in an attack in the northeastern province of Nooristan.

A local security officer said the three had been conducting a survey in advance of a voter registration drive in the province.