Berg Murder Suspects Detained
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May 21, 2004 Coalition forces captured four individuals suspected of involvement in the murder of American contractor Nicholas Berg during a May 19 raid in Baghdad, a senior U.S. military spokesman noted today.
Two detainees have been released, while the others remain in coalition custody, Army Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, deputy operations director for Multinational Force Iraq, told reporters at a Baghdad press conference.
Berg, who had been in Iraq seeking work, was reported missing in early April. His decapitated body was found in Baghdad May 8. The American's murder by his captors was depicted on videotape that was broadcast over regional Arab media.
Turning to other matters, the general discredited a recent news report that accuses the U.S. military of continued incidences of torture and abuse of detainees in Iraq.
"Coalition forces soundly deny the allegations," Kimmitt declared. The story, he said, "was built upon anonymous sources and any suggestion that torture is used is false and offensive."
All U.S. forces operating in Iraq "adhere to the Geneva Conventions in the conduct of detention and interrogation operations," Kimmitt asserted.
If violations of the Geneva Conventions occur, he noted, "They are investigated, and, if necessary, prosecuted."
Kimmitt cited the news story as a piece of "careless reporting" that inappropriately revealed specific locations of military operations. The disputed report, he added, "only serves to increase the threat our soldiers face daily in Iraq."
Kimmitt reported that U.S.-coalition forces in Iraq conducted 1,804 patrols, 13 offensive operations and 44 Air Force and Navy sorties, and captured 27 anti- coalition suspects in the past 24 hours.
And 454 detainees at Abu Ghraib prison were released today, the general noted. Another 394 people, he said, are slated for release May 28.
"Fallujah remains quiet," Kimmitt noted, without any cease-fire violations since May 3. U.S.-coalition forces, he added, have turned over checkpoints in northern Fallujah to Iraqi Civil Defense Corps troops.
However, Kimmitt reported that heavy fighting occurred today between U.S.- coalition forces and insurgent troops in Karbala, Najaf and Kufa.
U.S. forces in Karbala faced insurgents' rocket-propelled-grenade fire during fighting near some holy shrines, he said. AC-130 aircraft were called in to hit back at the enemy with precision fire, he explained, in order to reduce the risk of damage to nearby religious sites and other buildings.
Also today, coalition forces killed the driver of a speeding vehicle that attacked a coalition road checkpoint between Kufa and Karbala with small-arms fire. Coalition fire, Kimmitt noted, disabled the vehicle. One passenger was injured in the exchange, he added, and two people were detained.
In other news, a U.S. Marine died May 20 in a vehicle accident in western Anbar province, according to a coalition news release. The service member's death was deemed caused by a nonhostile event, and the incident is under investigation.
Another release reported that one American soldier and two Iraqis in Baghdad were killed May 20 by an improvised explosive device.