`Patterns' behind Iraqi prisoners' deaths

WASHINGTON, JUNE 1. More than one third of the prisoners who have died in American custody in Iraq and Afghanistan were either shot, strangled or beaten by U.S. personnel, according to official death certificates and a high ranking official quoted in USA Today.

According to the report, the military official who has "direct knowledge" of the ongoing investigation of the deaths in the Pentagon has said that 15 of the 37 prisoners who have died since December 2002 appear to have been put in danger by American troops or those who had interrogated. "In some cases the immediate cause of death was listed as a heart attack, but that was in turn caused by a beating," the report says.

What is being pointed out that some of the cases — like for instance the death of four prisoners at Abu Ghraib as a result of prison rioting — have been cleared; but others are yet to be sorted out, with the Pentagon investigating at least eight deaths as `suspicious.' The numbers are not adding up and the Defence Department is yet to provide a detailed list, it is being pointed out.

The USA Today speaks of at least three `patterns' that have emerged thus far: six prisoners died as a result of "blunt force trauma" or excessive force being used on the prisoners by captors or prison guards; at least four prisoners died from strangulation, asphyxia, smothering or "compromised respiration;" and at least nine prisoners died in Baghdad and Abu Ghraib prison as a result of heart or `heat' related deaths. Investigators are now looking into at least one `heat' related death to see if the prisoner was given adequate water and proper care.

The investigations conducted by the Pentagon are all criminal in nature and involve personnel from the Army, Navy and Marine forces as well as contractors and interrogators associated with the CIA. Thus far no American soldier has been criminally charged in any of the deaths though one soldier has been discharged; and two Marines are facing court martial for their role in a strangulation death .