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Death of 25 held in US custody are under investigation

WASHINGTON -- They were shot during riots and while trying to escape. One passed out during an interrogation and died. Some of the deaths of prisoners in US custody in Iraq and Afghanistan have been ruled homicides. Others were attributed to natural causes. Many cases are unexplained.

Army officials say they are looking into at least 25 prisoner deaths since December 2002.

The Army provost marshal, Major General Donald Ryder, said last week that 12 deaths were the result of natural or undetermined causes, 10 were under investigation, and three were classified as homicides.

One of those homicides was considered a justified shooting of an escaping prisoner. A second was a case of excessive force; the soldier was demoted and discharged. The third, involving civilians, has been referred to the Justice Department. The military has not provided details of the cases it is investigating.

The CIA's inspector general is conducting inquiries into the deaths of three prisoners that may have involved agency officers or contractors. At least one case also is under review by the Army. It is unclear whether officials are investigating the deaths of more prisoners in those two countries.

The Associated Press compiled a review of prisoner deaths reported in both countries, based on information from military and intelligence officials, and the Teguba report, which is classified, internal Army investigation into conditions at the Abu Ghraib prison in the Baghdad area.

Among the cases:

Qaim, Iraq, Nov. 26, 2003: Major General Abed Hamed Mowhoush, a former commander of Saddam Hussein's air defenses, loses consciousness and dies during interrogation after complaining he does not feel well. He was captured Oct. 5 during a raid. Military officials said he was believed to be playing a financial role in the resistance to the US occupation. The cause of death and interrogation techniques are under investigation. Mowhoush's death may have involved a CIA officer who is an interrogator. The CIA's inspector general is investigating.

Abu Ghraib, Nov. 24, 2003: Several prisoners rioted, and guards opened fire, killing three detainees. Nine US soldiers and nine prisoners were hurt.

Abu Ghraib, November 2003: A prisoner's death may have involved CIA personnel. The Army's Criminal Investigation Division has determined this death was a homicide and referred the matter to the Justice Department.

Undisclosed location, Iraq, September 2003: A soldier shoots and kills a prisoner who was throwing rocks at him. The soldier is charged for using excessive force, reduced in rank, and dismissed from the military.

Kunar Province, Afghanistan, June 21, 2003: An Afghan at a US holding facility near Asadabad dies. He was captured on June 18; his death was announced June 23. The military has said the cause of death is under investigation. This death may have involved a contractor working for the CIA.

Abu Ghraib, June 13, 2003: About 30 or 40 detainees riot and throw rocks at some guards, injuring one. Tower guards shoot at the rioters, killing one and injuring seven.

Camp Whitehorse, near Nasiriyah, Iraq, June 2003: Marine Corps Lance Corporal Christian Hernandez, a reservist, grabs detainee Nagem Sadoon Hatab, a 52-year-old former Ba'ath Party official, by the neck, snapping a bone and killing him.

Hernandez was trying to move Hatab. Investigators believed the death was accidental. Hatab was left lying naked for hours when he was found dead at the detention facility near Nasariyah.

Hernandez and his superior officer, Major Clark A. Paulus, also a reservist, were charged with negligent homicide. Their commanding general dismissed those charges in April.

Paulus, the detention camp's commanding officer, instead faces general court-martial on charges of dereliction of duty, assault, and of cruelty and maltreatment.

Sergeant Gary Pittman, accused of karate-kicking Hatab in the chest, faces two charges of dereliction of duty and four of assault.

Iraq, March 29, 2003: A Marine shoots and kills an Iraqi prisoner who tried to take the Marine's gun. Officials determine the Marine acted in self-defense and the shooting was not investigated as a crime.

Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan, Dec. 10, 2002: Dilawar, 22, an Afghan taxi driver, dies of "blunt force injuries" while in US custody. This death, classified as a homicide, remains under investigation.

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