Former Afghan detainee recounts abuse

Crisis In Iraq

May 12, 2004|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

KABUL, Afghanistan - A former Afghan police colonel gave a graphic account in an interview this week of being subjected to beating, kicking, sleep deprivation, taunts and sexual abuse during about 40 days he spent in U.S. custody last summer. He also said he was repeatedly photographed, often while naked.

"I swear to God, those photos shown on television of the prison in Iraq - those things happened to me as well," the former officer, Sayed Nabi Siddiqui, 47, said in the interview on Sunday near Gardez.

His account could not be independently verified, but members of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission said his story matched the one given to them last fall, shortly after his release and long before the abuse at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison came to light.

After queries to the Pentagon about Siddiqui's case, the U.S. Embassy in Kabul issued a statement today saying that "the U.S. military has launched an immediate investigation."

Siddiqui said he had also been held for 22 days at the U.S. fire base at Gardez, where U.S. infantry and Special Forces are based and where he said the worst abuses occurred. He then spent 12 days at the Kandahar air base and finally about a week in Bagram, he said.

He described being humiliated repeatedly during his detention in all three places.

"They made insults about our women," he added. He said the American interrogator, through a translator, had taunted him, asking: "Do you know that your wife and daughter are prostitutes now?"

"Every time they were laughing and putting their fingers in my anus, and throwing different colors of beams of light in my eyes and they were putting their feet on my neck," he said.

Lt. Gen. David Barno, the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan since October, said in an interview yesterday that he had not heard of the allegations but that "I take those accounts very seriously."

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