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US Investigates New Afghan Prisoner Abuse Allegations - 2004-05-15

U.S. military forces in Afghanistan say they are investigating a new allegation of prisoner abuse by their troops.

U.S. military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Tucker Mansager says the investigation is based on information received Thursday, but he did not give further details.

On Wednesday, the U.S. military announced it was investigating allegations by an Afghan detainee, who says he was beaten and sexually abused while in U.S. custody last year.

The U.S. military is also looking into the deaths of two Afghan prisoners in December 2002 and a third death in June of last year.

Military officials say they will not release any of their findings until the investigations conclude.

Allegations of abuse by U.S. troops in Afghanistan are receiving increased attention, following the publication of photographs showing abuses by U.S. prison guards in Iraq.

Lieutenant Colonel Mansager says an independent military unit is handling the investigative work.

"The investigation is being conducted by the U.S. Army's Criminal Investigative Division, which is an independent division ? whose job it is to investigate serious allegations such as this," he explained.

Lieutenant Colonel Mansager says the International Committee of the Red Cross regularly monitors the main U.S. prison in Aghanistan at the Bagram Air Base, and that the military is considering a new request to allow visits to its other prison camps.

"We received an informal request from the ICRC yesterday [Friday] to visit one of the facilities, and that's being taken under consideration now," he said.

Human rights groups complain that investigations by the military are not transparent and have dragged on for years. They also say that because the Red Cross does not make its findings public, the military should allow other independent observers access to prisoners.