2 dozen soldiers may be charged in Bagram prison deaths

USA TODAY
September 2, 2004, Thursday, FINAL EDITION
BYLINE: Tom Squitieri
SECTION: NEWS; Pg. 15A
LENGTH: 467 words
DATELINE: WASHINGTON

WASHINGTON — More than two dozen U.S. soldiers will face charges for their roles in the deaths of two prisoners in Afghanistan, a U.S. military official said Wednesday. Charges could include negligent homicide for some of those directly involved in the deaths.

One Army reservist has already been charged with assault, maltreatment and dereliction of duty in the deaths of the two prisoners at Bagram Air Base, north of Kabul, in December 2002. The military official, who has been briefed on the investigation, said the additional soldiers will be linked to deaths when Army investigators finalize their report this month.

“The Army wants to ensure all who may have seen, heard and failed to report this are accounted for,” said the official, who would not speak publicly because the investigation is not complete.

Elements of the investigation into the deaths were first reported Wednesday by The Washington Post. The Afghans are the first prisoners the military acknowledges died in U.S. custody since the war on terrorism started in fall 2001.

According to military death certificates, Mullah Habibullah, about 28, and another prisoner identified only as Dilawar, 22, a taxi driver, both died after receiving “blunt-force” injuries to their legs or feet, which can cause fatal blood clots in the lungs.

The two are among at least five suspicious prisoner deaths that have occurred in Afghanistan. Army investigators are continuing to examine the others.

Investigators from the Army’s Criminal Investigation Command are reviewing charges ranging from negligent homicide to dereliction of duty and failure to report an offense for the soldiers involved in the two deaths.

All those who will face charges are from the 377th Military Police Company, based in Cincinnati, and the 519th Military Intelligence Battalion, based at Fort Bragg in North Carolina, the official said.

The 519th M.I. Battalion oversaw interrogations at Bagram, and members of that same unit went on to lead the questioning of prisoners at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison, where dozens of cases of prisoner abuse occurred.

Charged with assault and other counts is Sgt. James Boland, an Army reservist in the 377th Military Police Company, the Army announced late last month. He is at Fort Knox in Kentucky while his case is pending.

The Army probe of Afghan prisoner deaths is distinct from another investigation being led by Brig. Gen. Charles Jacoby, deputy commander at Bagram Air Base.

Jacoby is investigating the conditions at all the U.S.-run jails in Afghanistan. His report was to have been released in June but has been postponed three times.

Three other major investigations of prisoner deaths, abuse and interrogation policies are also underway.

Five have been completed.