Wednesday, January 14, 2004

US military 'brutalised' journalists

The international news agency Reuters has made a formal complaint to the Pentagon following the "wrongful" arrest and apparent "brutalisation" of three of its staff this month by US troops in Iraq.

The complaint followed an incident in the town of Falluja when American soldiers fired at two Iraqi cameramen and a driver from the agency while they were filming the scene of a helicopter crash.

The US military initially claimed that the Reuters journalists were "enemy personnel" who had opened fire on US troops and refused to release them for 72 hours.

Although Reuters has not commented publicly, it is understood that the journalists were "brutalised and intimidated" by US soldiers, who put bags over their heads, told them they would be sent to Guantanamo Bay, and whispered: "Let's have sex."

At one point during the interrogation, according to the family of one of the staff members, a US soldier shoved a shoe into the mouth one of the Iraqis.

The US troops, from the 82nd Airborne Division, based in Falluja, also made the blindfolded journalists stand for hours with their arms raised and their palms pressed against the cell wall.

"They were brutalised, terrified and humiliated for three days," one source said. "It was pretty grim stuff. There was mental and physical abuse."



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