31 January 2006

U.S. Army detained suspects' daughters, wives as leverage

So now we're kidnapping women and holding them hostage. Even nursing mothers.

God bless America.

From The Seattle Times:
The U.S. Army has been detaining Iraqi women to help track down husbands or fathers who are suspected terrorists, according to documents released Friday and an interview with a female detainee who was released Thursday after four months in prison.

A series of e-mails written by U.S. soldiers and an internal Army memo, all released Friday in response to a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union, describe two cases of women who were imprisoned because American officials wanted information about their husbands.

The Iraqi woman said Friday that she and eight other female detainees in her cell had talked often among themselves. She discovered that all were being held because U.S. officials had suspected their male relatives of having ties to terrorism. In some cases, men in their families were killed during U.S. raids, the woman alleged.

The woman, whose voice trembled as she told her story, said she did not want to be named because she feared that she or a member of her family would be arrested.

U.S. officials declined to discuss specific cases, including whether the women were held solely because U.S. forces suspected that male relatives were terrorists. But Lt. Col. Barry Johnson, an Army spokesman in Baghdad, said Friday that the U.S. military held only people who were considered threats.

"We recognize insurgents don't work alone. They work in groups. Questioning certainly focuses on who they are associated with," Johnson said. "If we believe they have information or an association with terrorist activity, we would make a determination about exactly what that role may be."

The woman said she was visiting a relative in southwest Baghdad four months ago when multinational forces raided the home. Her relative's husband was killed, she said, and she and her husband were detained.

She said she was held with eight other women in a small room at Baghdad International Airport.

"We were talking about the charges against each of us," she said. "It turned out to be all the same. We were taken because they suspected our husbands or fathers of being terrorists."

She said she was cut off from her family during her capture and that she didn't see or hear from her husband until he, too, was released Thursday.

She said interrogators questioned her extensively during the first 12 days of her imprisonment but also offered her tea and juice.

"I was treated in a good way, no torture," she said.

The U.S. detention of female prisoners is a sensitive issue for the Iraqi populace, which considers the mistreatment of a woman a dishonor to her family. Iraqis find it particularly offensive that foreign male officers are holding female prisoners, as many Iraqis fear that U.S. soldiers will treat them disrespectfully.

Several terrorist groups that are holding hostages — inducing the one that claims responsibility for kidnapping U.S. journalist Jill Carroll — have demanded the release of female prisoners.

U.S. and Iraqi officials have said the decision to release five women Thursday wasn't related to Carroll's kidnapping but was the result of a routine review of detainee cases.

U.S. officials said that after the release of the five, four of the 14,000 prisoners they were holding were female. The Iraqi Justice Ministry said Friday that six women remain in custody.

In a memo written in June 2004 and released Friday, an officer with the Defense Intelligence Agency, whose name was redacted, described the arrest of a 28-year-old woman from Tamiya, northwest of Baghdad. She had three children, including one who was nursing.

U.S. forces raided her in-laws' home, calling her husband the "primary target." Before the raid, soldiers had decided that if the woman were at the in-laws' home, they would detain her "in order to leverage the primary target's surrender," the memo's author wrote.
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