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Pentagon investigating claims of mistaken identity in raid

Wednesday, January 30, 2002

Associated Press WriterWASHINGTON (AP) -- The Defense Department is investigating claims that U.S. special forces killed or arrested the wrong people during a raid in Afghanistan last week, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Wednesday.

Rumsfeld said changing loyalties among Afghan officials could make it difficult to determine whether those killed or detained were friend or foe.

"There are people who have had a relationship with the Taliban who now want to be part of the provincial governments that exist," Rumsfeld told a Pentagon news conference.

The interim Afghan government led by Hamid Karzai says it is also investigating.

In the raid in Uruzgan province, north of Kandahar, U.S. troops killed 15 or 16 people and arrested 27 others.

The Pentagon has insisted U.S. special forces attacked a legitimate military target in the raid on an ammunition dump that intelligence analysts believed al-Qaida or Taliban forces were using.

But some Afghans say Taliban renegades were handing over weapons to Karzai's government at the site, and that some pro-Karzai figures were killed and others -- including a police chief, his deputy and members of a district council -- were among those arrested.

Afghan officials in Kandahar have asked the U.S. military for a clarification of the detainees' status.

Rumsfeld and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Richard Myers said all of the 27 men were still being detained.

Gen. Tommy Franks, the U.S. commander of the war, decided to begin an investigation of the raid after the mistaken identity claims first surfaced, Rumsfeld and Myers said. That inquiry should be completed in about two weeks, Rumsfeld said.

Several clues indicate the raided compound was a legitimate target, Rumsfeld and Myers said. They said no women or children were there, a large amount of ammunition was found and men inside the compound fired first.

"As the American and Afghan forces approached, they were shot at by the people in the compound, which is something," Rumsfeld said.

Meanwhile, Rumsfeld repeated his view that suspected Taliban and al-Qaida fighters captured in Afghanistan will not be considered prisoners of war.

President Bush is "considering a couple of legal technicalities" about the prisoners' status, but it is clear they are not POWs, Rumsfeld said. The 1949 Geneva Convention which covers such situations says that fighters who do not wear uniforms and try to blend in with civilians are not entitled to POW protections, Rumsfeld said.

Officials from some European countries have called for the prisoners -- particularly the 158 being held at the U.S. base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba -- to be classified and treated as prisoners of war. Rumsfeld said reports that Secretary of State Colin Powell supported giving some of the prisoners POW status were wrong.

"He's never said that," Rumsfeld said.

Rumsfeld said he is "wrestling with" a decision on when to resume bringing prisoners from Afghanistan to the base in Cuba. He halted detainee transfers last week to avoid overcrowding the hastily built prison camp.


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