Five U.S. soldiers with the 75th Ranger Regiment in Iraq have been charged with abusing three detainees as they were preparing to transfer them to a prison in September, according to U.S. military officials in Baghdad.
The incident occurred in an unspecified "battlefield collection point" in the Baghdad area on Sept. 7, when the five soldiers allegedly beat the detainees they were assigned to guard, said Chief Petty Officer Greg Frazho, a spokesman for Multinational Forces in Iraq. "The detainees got bruises and contusions, caused by striking with a closed and open hand, and hitting with an object described as a broomstick," Frazho said yesterday.
It was unclear yesterday how officials learned of the alleged incident, but Army officials said an investigation began as soon as it came to light. Officials did not release the names of those charged.
Each soldier was charged on Saturday with assault and battery, maltreatment and dereliction of duty. Those charges have been sent to higher officers for evaluation. Frazho said all of the soldiers have been assigned to administrative duties while the charges are pending.
The charges provided another example of how allegations of detainee abuse have not disappeared after the Abu Ghraib prison scandal and well-publicized allegations of mistreatment at other U.S. facilities in Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Yesterday's announcement also underscored the Army's close attention to the matter, officials said. "The U.S. Army is committed to ensuring that soldiers live up to the Army values and the law of war, regardless of the environment or circumstances," said Paul Boyce, an Army spokesman at the Pentagon.
So far, the Army has investigated more than 400 allegations of detainee mistreatment, and more than 230 soldiers and officers have faced courts-martial, non-judicial punishments and administrative punishments, Boyce said.
Many allegations of abuse discovered by the Army have occurred at what the military calls "points of contact," when troops engage with hostile forces or criminals directly on the battlefield. Those contacts are often the most emotional and can involve combat.
Military officials could not offer details about how the five soldiers interacted with the detainees or what led to the alleged beatings.