WITH U.S. MARINES, SAUDI ARABIA (AP) -- The 12 sat cross-legged in a trench dug in the sand. Barefoot, in need of a shave, wearing navy sweaters and thin green fatigues, they looked young, frightened.
The dozen men guarded by U.S. Marines were the first Iraqis captured in the still young Persian Gulf war. U.S. and Kuwaiti forces captured them on nine Kuwaiti offshore oil platforms late Friday after they were spotted firing on allied planes with artillery and shoulder-fired missiles.
Eleven of the prisoners appeared to be in good shape as they puzzled with the peanut butter and dehydrated fruit in the Ready-to-Eat rations the Marines had given them.
Another Iraqi seemed dazed as a Marine bandaged his foot.
"They're as well as can be expected of combat troops," said the leader of a Marine interrogation translation team.
The U.S. Central Command in Dhahran made no mention of other Iraqis on the platform or enemy casualties. But Marines with the prisoners said that four other prisoners were being treated for injuries at a field hospital and that five Iraqi bodies were brought in from the skirmish.
Pentagon officials said there were no allied casualties in the brief assault.
The prisoners were treated with deference. They were given food, clothing, even gas masks. A news photographer was only permitted to take pictures of their backs.
They were not, said a Marine warrant officer who declined to give his name, "exhibits in the zoo."
"Thumbscrews and racks are a thing of the past," he said. "They're professional soldiers. We treat them as we would treat professionals."
The Marines also took pains to honor the religious practices of their prisoners. All pork products were removed from the ration packs. The prisoners were told they could pray when nearby mosques gave the call to prayer.
The prisoners were to be kept in a sand pit for the night, watched over by guards armed with M-16s and shotguns. The pit was for the prisoners' own protection, the Marines explained, to protect them from incoming Iraqi fire that has been landing in the area.
"They'll be taken better care of than the Marines guarding them tonight," the warrant officer said.