The military intelligence unit that ran interrogations at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison had earlier served at a U.S. detention facility in Afghanistan where two prisoners died, according to a newspaper.
Afghans who were detained at that facility describe mistreatment similar to the abuse at Abu Ghraib, The New York Times reported.
The two deaths in Afghanistan in December 2002 have been under investigation since well before photographs emerged of the alleged abuse at Abu Ghraib.
After those photographs were broadcast, newspapers reported that some of the soldiers and interrogation rules used at Abu Ghraib had earlier seen service in Afghanistan.
But The Times report is the first to link the two dead Afghans to the intelligence soldiers who went from Afghanistan to Iraq.
The apparent connections between interrogation practices — and alleged abuses — in Afghanistan, at Guantanamo Bay and at Abu Ghraib go to the heart of the key questions in the prison abuse scandal: were the abuses condoned or encouraged as part of an official policy, and how many soldiers were involved?
Seven low-ranking soldiers have been accused of crimes in the abuse, and several officers have been given administrative discipline. The Los Angeles Times reports the investigation is expanding to look at the role of military intelligence.
An Army spokesman tells The New York Times that three members of the unit that went from Afghanistan to Iraq, Company A of the 519th Military Intelligence Battalion, have also been disciplined.
The two deaths in Afghanistan are among nine being investigated by the military, the Times reports.
The men were identified on death certificates as Dilawar and "Ullah, Habib." Both died of blunt force injuries to their legs. Both deaths were considered "homicides" — not suicides, accidents or deaths by natural causes. A "homicide" is not necessarily a "murder," since the latter term implies criminal fault.
The dead men were held at a detention facility at Bagram air base where some 350 prisoners have been held.
Two Afghan men who were also detained there told The Times they were hooded, prevented from sleeping, kicked and punched, and made to undress in front of female soldiers.
The men were in U.S. custody for 15 months. They were transferred from Bagram to Guantanamo Bay and ultimately released because they had done nothing wrong. They said they were not forced to undress in front of females at Guantanamo.
The military said Monday that an American general has begun his review of secretive U.S. jails in Afghanistan where at least three prisoners died and former detainees say they were abused.
The review was announced last week. Brig. Gen. Charles Jacoby, deputy operational commander at the military's main base at Bagram, north of Kabul, was appointed to do the work and report by mid-June.
"Gen. Jacoby is now into about the third day of the top-to-bottom review of all the coalition's detainee facilities and procedures," Lt. Col. Tucker Mansager said.
Mansager said the general had visited two jails at military bases in the country's troubled east. He declined to name them.
The overall commander of the 20,000 U.S.-led forces pursuing Taliban and al Qaeda militants in Afghanistan, Lt. Gen. David Barno, ordered the review earlier this month in response to the growing scandal over prisoner abuse in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Jacoby is to visit about 20 U.S. detention centers, including the main jail at Bagram and others at smaller bases around the country "to ensure internationally accepted standards of handling detainees are being met," according to the military, which insists all its prisoners are treated humanely.
The military recently announced two new criminal investigations into ex-inmates' allegations of abuse — including a former Afghan police colonel's claim he was beaten and sexually abused in mid-2003, and released without charge.
U.S.-led forces have detained hundreds of people in Afghanistan since ousting the Taliban in late 2001 for harboring Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda network. The United States considers them "unlawful combatants" not entitled to the full protection of the Geneva Conventions, and many have been transferred to Guantanamo and held without trial or access to lawyers for more than two years.
The CIA inspector general is investigating the death of another detainee in Afghanistan's eastern Kunar province in June 2003.