Afghan officer says he was abused while in U.S. custody.

An Afghan police colonel said yesterday that he was beaten, stripped naked and sexually abused and humiliated while in U.S. custody for nearly 40 days last year at several bases in Afghanistan. The American military said it has opened an inquiry into the case.

Sayed Nabi Siddiqui said interrogators punched him, held his head down with their boots and put their fingers in his anus while accusing him of working for the Taliban. He said the abuse occurred while he was held at a U.S. base in Gardez, 100 kilometres south of Kabul.

"I said, 'You are animals. This is like the jungle. This is not human,' " Mr. Siddiqui said in an interview at his home in a village near Gardez.

His allegations are similar to those against several U.S. soldiers accused of abusing prisoners in Iraq. Mr. Siddiqui first made his accusations in a complaint to an Afghan rights group in August, 2003.

U.S. military spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Tucker Mansager said an inquiry was launched after Mr. Siddiqui was interviewed by The New York Times in an article published yesterday. U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad said the article was the first time the allegations had come to the attention of military authorities.

Ahmed Zia Langari, a member of the Afghan Human Rights Commission, said it informed the United Nations last August of Mr. Siddiqui's case and requested help in setting up a meeting with coalition forces. No meeting has taken place.

Mr. Langari said the group is aware of 44 complaints of ill-treatment at the hands of U.S. forces. The commission has requested access to the U.S. jail at Bagram, the U.S. forces' headquarters in Afghanistan, and to holding facilities elsewhere, but the military has so far refused, Mr. Langari said.

Mr. Siddiqui said the abuse took place between July 15 and Aug. 20, 2003, at holding facilities in Gardez, at the southern city of Kandahar and at the U.S. military headquarters at Bagram north of Kabul, Mr. Siddiqui said.

Mr. Siddiqui said he was an honest police officer who favoured the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan. He believes he was denounced as a Taliban agent by an enemy of his family. "I was an officer in the criminal department [in Gardez] working against terrorists, and I was committed to my job," he said, adding that he was fired after his arrest.

Mr. Siddiqui said that on July 15, his commanding officer called him in to the police station in Gardez and told him to go to the base with American soldiers.

He said he was held there for 22 days, and beaten each day by six or seven people, some American and some Afghan. He said he was blindfolded during interrogations but could see the flash of cameras.

"They stood around me and put their fingers in my anus . . . and just laughed and laughed," he said.

Mr. Siddiqui said he was taken by helicopter to Kandahar, where he spent about 10 more days in U.S. custody.

He said he was told to kneel and soldiers brought dogs into the cell and threatened him and other detainees.

Finally, he was taken to Bagram where he was held for about a week. He was released Aug. 20 with a note from U.S. military police saying no charges were being brought against him.

[Source: By Stephen Graham, Sheiko, Afg, 13May04]

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