24 Emaciated Boys Found At Baghdad Orphanage
Iraqi Official Denies Allegations of Abuse

By John Ward Anderson and Dahlia Farooq
Washington Post Foreign Service
Thursday, June 21, 2007

BAGHDAD, June 20 -- U.S. and Iraqi troops discovered an orphanage with "24 severely malnourished and abused boys" 10 days ago in the al-Fajr neighborhood of northern Baghdad, the U.S. military said Wednesday. The boys, ages 3 to 15, "were found naked in a darkened room without any windows," the military said in a statement.

Photographs obtained by CBS News, which broke the story Monday, showed emaciated children lying naked on concrete floors in their own waste, some tied to their beds. Nearby, soldiers discovered a locked room with food and clothing.

Abeer Mahdi al-Chalabi, head of the orphanage section of the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, denied in a telephone interview that the children had been badly treated and said they were not orphans but were "special needs" children.

"Some of those children were seriously physically and mentally ill. Some of them eat everything that comes their way, and because it was after midnight, we can't leave them moving freely. The workers tied them up for the children's benefit," she said.

Chalabi also said a "medical report" issued five days before the raid had shown no violations of health codes.

"The American forces attacked the house about 2 a.m. and broke the doors and caused a huge mess everywhere in the house," she said. "The kids were naked because there was no electricity and the weather is very hot, so we wanted to reduce the heat, and the workers took off the kids' clothes."

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has ordered an investigation, state television reported. The children have been taken to an orphanage where they are being better cared for, CBS said.

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