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2 Afghans allege abuse at U.S. site

At the beginning of his detention, he was forced to strip naked and undergo a medical checkup in front of about a half-dozen American soldiers. He said that his Muslim upbringing made such a display humiliating and that the soldiers made it worse.

"They touched me all over my body. They took pictures, and they were laughing and laughing," he said. "They were doing everything."

He said he lived in a small concrete cell that was slightly longer than the length of his body. Food was tossed in a plastic bag through a slot in the metal door. Both teenagers said that when they tried to sleep, on the floor, their captors shouted at them and hammered on their cells.

When summoned for daily interrogations, Rashid said, he was made to wear a hood, handcuffs and ear coverings and was marched into the meeting room. He said he was punched by his interrogators while being prodded to admit ties to the Taliban; he denied such ties. During some sessions, he said, his interrogator forced him to look at pornographic movies and magazines while also showing him a photograph of his mother.

"I was just crying and crying. I was too young," Rashid said. "I didn't know what a prison looks like or what a prison is."

Lengthy interrogations

Mohammad, a vegetable farmer from the Arghandab district of Kandahar province, said he was arrested around March, also during an American military raid. He said he spent 14 days in a solitary cell before being moved to group quarters at the main Bagram prison, which he described as a separate area. During those initial two weeks, he recalled, interrogation sessions lasted hours, with one man "yelling at me and also punching and slapping my face."

"He kept asking me, 'Tell us the truth.' I told them the truth more than 10 times. That I'm a farmer, my father was a farmer, my brother was a farmer," Mohammad said. "But they said, 'No, help us with this case. Tell us the truth.' That's why he was slapping me."

Similar living conditions, particularly the lengthy sleep deprivation and intense cold, were also described by two other former detainees, Malik Mohammad Hassan, a tribal elder from the Jalalabad area, and Mohammad Mukhtar, a former teacher. They said they were arrested last year and held for some time in the "black" prison. They said they were not beaten but still described their treatment as "torture."

"This is something nobody can bear. It's extraordinary," Hassan said. "They treated us like wild animals."

Conditions inside the main Bagram prison have been kept hidden from the American public for most of the eight-year-old war in Afghanistan. Detainees are held there without charge, sometimes for several years, and are denied access to lawyers. In the early years, the prison was notorious as a place where aggressive interrogations and severe sleep deprivation were regularly used. Two detainees died there in 2002 after being beaten by U.S. soldiers.

The Special Operations facility at the Bagram base has been even more carefully shielded, with the identities of detainees kept secret even from the International Committee of the Red Cross. But in the summer, the military agreed to notify the Red Cross within 14 days of the identities of detainees brought there.

The U.S. military is now reforming detainee policies at Bagram, and the captives are expected to be transferred to a new $60 million detention center by year's end. The facility is intended to provide better living conditions and prepare detainees to re-enter society. On a tour of the unoccupied prison this month, U.S. military officials touted the changes: rooms for family visits, vocational classes, recreational areas and medical checkups. The detainees will live under natural light, have access to regular hearings with an appointed U.S. military representative, and get a mattress, two blankets, a prayer rug, a prayer cap and a Koran.

"I want to be clear that there is no harsh treatment at all," Col. John Garrity, a commander at Bagram, said at the time.

Tate reported from Washington. Special correspondent Javed Hamdard contributed to this report.

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