More than a third of the prisoners who died in U.S. custody in
Iraq and Afghanistan were shot, strangled or beaten by U.S. personnel
before they died, according to death certificates and a high-ranking U.S.
military official.

The military official, who has direct knowledge of ongoing Pentagon
investigations of the deaths, said that 15 of 37 prisoners who have died
since December 2002 appear to have been killed or put in grave danger by
U.S. troops or interrogators. In some cases, the immediate cause of death
was listed as a heart attack, but that was in turn caused by a beating.

Some of the cases have been cleared. Four of the 15 deaths occurred when
guards shot detainees in Iraq during a prison riot at Abu Ghraib prison in
November 2003; the shootings have been ruled justifiable homicides.

In another case, a guard who shot a prisoner to death for throwing rocks at
him was demoted and dishonorably discharged.

But other cases remain in limbo. The military is investigating eight deaths
as “suspicious.” The numbers don’t appear to add up, but the Pentagon has
not yet provided a detailed list of all the cases. Many of the deaths that
don’t seem to have been caused directly by U.S. personnel have been
attributed by medical examiners to natural causes..


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