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Army Finds More Abuse Cases

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The U.S. military has found 94 cases of confirmed or alleged abuse of prisoners by U.S. soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan since the fall of 2001, the Army's inspector general said Thursday in a long-awaited report.

Sen. John Warner, the Republican chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, who had been pressing for the results of the inspector general report for several weeks, called a last-minute hearing Thursday before Congress leaves for the rest of the summer Friday.

The number is significantly higher than all other previous estimates given by the Pentagon, which had refused until now to give a total number of abuse allegations.

The inspector general investigation, ordered Feb. 10 after the allegations of abuse at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq came to the attention of top Army officials in Washington, concluded that there were no systemic problems that contributed to the abuse. In some cases, the report found, the abuse was abetted or facilitated by officers not following proper procedures.

Most of the alleged abuses — 45 of the 94 — happened at the point where the detainee was captured, said Lt. Gen. Paul Mikolashek, the Army's inspector general. Of those 45 cases, 20 involved allegations of physical abuse and the rest were allegations of theft or other crimes, he said.

Twenty-one cases of alleged abuse happened at detention centers such as Abu Ghraib, Mikolashek said. Another 19 happened at collection points where prisoners are gathered between their capture and their transfer to long-term prisons.

Only eight cases happened during or surrounding interrogations, Mikolashek said.

The instances resulted from individuals violating the rules, he said, but were understandable given the "tough, demanding, dangerous and different environment."

"This environment puts a tremendous burden on our soldiers who confront this enemy and their supporters eyeball to eyeball every day, and you will see our soldiers have responded to this challenge very well," Mikolashek said.

In contrast to its own findings that there were no systemic problems, however, the Army report also cites a February report from the International Committee for the Red Cross that alleged that "methods of ill treatment" were "used in a systematic way" by the U.S. military in Iraq.

Seven members of the 372nd Military Police Company, an Army Reserve unit from Cresaptown, Md., were charged in the prisoner abuse scandal, which unfolded this past spring with the release of pictures of abuse and sexual humiliation of prisoners at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison.

Questions also arose about prisons in Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and the deaths of detainees, as well as whether abuse was part of interrogations.

The report does not cover prisoner treatment at Guantanamo, reports CBS News Capitol Hill Correspondent Bob Fuss.

Meanwhile, U.S. military officials in Afghanistan acknowledged Thursday it held an Afghan man for a month after taking custody of him from three American counterterror vigilantes who have since been arrested on charges of torturing prisoners at a private jail they ran in the Afghan capital.

The Army has not yet made the entire report public but released parts during the public hearing.

The report, looking at the period from Oct 1. 2001 through June 9 of this year in Iraq and Afghanistan, is by far the most comprehensive examination of the abuse that sent shock waves through both the Arab world and the United States.

Acting Army Secretary Les Brownlee, testifying at the hearing, said he accepted responsibility for the abuses committed by soldiers.

But Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, ranking Democrat on the committee, said it was "difficult to believe there were not systemic problems with our detention and interrogations operations."

The Army inspector general report found that since the fall of 2001, overall the United States had held more than 50,000 prisoners in Afghanistan and Iraq, a number never before made public.

American authorities in Afghanistan have tried to distance themselves from the vigilante group, led by a former American soldier named Jonathan Idema, insisting they were freelancers working outside the law. But Maj. Jon Siepmann, a spokesman, acknowledged that the military had received a detainee from Idema's group at Bagram Air Base, north of Kabul, on May 3.

Siepmann said Idema had appeared "questionable" the moment he presented the detainee, and that suspicion grew when, one month later, the man turned out not to be the top suspect that Idema had described.

"That doesn't mean at the time that we knew Mr. Idema's full track record or other things he was doing out there," Siepmann said. "This was a person who turned in a person who we believed was on our list of terrorists and we accepted him."

Siepmann declined to identify the detainee or the fugitive he was mistaken for.

He said it was unclear how Idema, who officials say had been posing as a U.S. special operations soldier, identified himself to soldiers at Bagram, or if he asked for anything in return for the detainee.

The U.S. government has offered rewards for the capture of a string of top fugitives, including a $50 million bounty on al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

Siepmann said officials were looking into whether Idema had other contact with U.S.-led forces here, but insisted he was in Afghanistan "entirely of his own volition."