More wacky fraternity hijinx

Isn’t that how Rush Limbaugh described Abu Ghraib?

At least 26 prisoners have died in American custody in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2002 in what Army and Navy investigators have concluded or suspect were acts of criminal homicide, according to military officials.

The number of confirmed or suspected cases is much higher than any accounting the military has previously reported. A Pentagon report sent to Congress last week cited only six prisoner deaths caused by abuse, but that partial tally was limited to what the author, Vice Adm. Albert T. Church III of the Navy, called “closed, substantiated abuse cases” as of last September.

The new figure of 26 was provided by the Army and Navy this week after repeated inquiries. In 18 cases reviewed by the Army and Navy, investigators have now closed their inquiries and have recommended them for prosecution or referred them to other agencies for action, Army and Navy officials said. Eight cases are still under investigation but are listed by the Army as confirmed or suspected criminal homicides, the officials said.

Only one of the deaths occurred at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, officials said, showing how broadly the most violent abuses extended beyond those prison walls and contradicting early impressions that the wrongdoing was confined to a handful of members of the military police on the prison’s night shift.

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At least eight Army soldiers have now been convicted of crimes in the deaths of prisoners in American custody, including a lieutenant who pleaded guilty at Fort Hood, Tex., this month to charges that included aggravated assault and battery, obstruction of justice and dereliction of duty. A charge of involuntary manslaughter in that case was dropped.

An additional 13 Army soldiers are now being tried, according to Army officials. They include Pfc. Willie V. Brand, who is facing a hearing at Fort Bliss, Tex., next week on charges of manslaughter and maiming in the deaths of two prisoners at Bagram Control Point in Afghanistan in December 2002.