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U.S. military investigates allegations of detainee abuse in Afghanistan

By Joshua Partlow
Friday, January 8, 2010; A12

KABUL -- The U.S. military has begun investigating allegations that two Afghan teenagers were beaten and humiliated by guards while in American custody last year at a secret detention center at Bagram air base, according to U.S. and Afghan officials.

U.S. military officials took statements from the teenagers last month and are contacting others who say they were held at what Afghans call Bagram's "black prison," a detention center run by U.S. Special Operations forces. This classified facility is separate from the main prison at Bagram, which holds about 700 detainees.

The two teenagers -- Issa Mohammad, then 17, and Abdul Rashid, who said he was younger than 16 -- described austere living conditions and rough treatment while undergoing extensive daily interrogations about their alleged links to the Taliban.

Mohammad and Rashid said that during their incarceration in early 2009, they were punched and slapped in the face, photographed naked and deprived of sleep while being held in solitary confinement. In addition, Rashid said interrogators forced him to look at pornography, which the young Muslim described as deeply humiliating. The Pentagon prohibits such treatment of detainees.

The two teenagers, along with a third Afghan youth, Sayid Sardar Ahmad, 17, who said he was detained at Bagram but not at the Special Operations site, were interviewed by The Washington Post in November at the Afghan-run Juvenile Rehabilitation Center in Kabul, where they were transferred after their time in U.S. custody. Last month, six American military officials visited the center to examine the case, according to the director of the facility, Abdullah Moqbel.

Moqbel said officials from the National Directorate of Security, Afghanistan's intelligence agency, also visited the prison and told him that Rashid, a woodcutter from Khost province and the youngest of the three teenagers, was innocent and could be freed. The teenager is now with his family.

Mohammad and Ahmad have been transferred to Afghanistan's Pul-i-Charkhi adult prison, Moqbel said.

The inquiry into the abuse allegations is being conducted by U.S. military officials in Afghanistan with access to the Special Operations facility. It is unclear whether the results of the inquiry will be made public.

Officials at Bagram air base were not available for comment.

Staff researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report.

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