BAGHDAD – The U.S. military in Baghdad confirmed on Wednesday it was holding two Iraqi women and was investigating accusations that they were being held hostage to pressure their fugitive male relatives to surrender. A spokesman said the women were detained as insurgent suspects, not hostages. The latter would be a breach of international law, human rights experts say; it could, however, be legitimate to hold relatives as suspects in their own right. “The U.S. army and Iraqi police did detain two females suspected of collaboration with anti-Iraqi forces,” Major Donn Latimer of the 3rd Infantry Division told Reuters, using a term employed by U.S. troops to describe guerrilla insurgents.

“Evidence was found at the residence that indicates clear knowledge of an intent to harm coalition forces,” Latimer said. “Currently their disposition is under review.” The women’s names were not available but details of their detention indicated they were relatives of Arkan Mukhlif al-Batawi, who has accused U.S. troops of taking his mother and sister hostage after raiding the family home on Saturday. Batawi, who farms at Taji just north of Baghdad, told Reuters on Tuesday that the women had been arrested to try to pressure him and his brothers Muhammad and Saddam to surrender themselves to U.S. troops who suspect them of insurgent attacks.

A handwritten note in Arabic at the house read: “Be a man Muhammad Mukhlif and give yourself up and then we will release your sisters. Otherwise they will spend a long time in detention.” It was signed “Bandit 6,” apparently U.S. army code, possibly designating a company commander. Several neighbours corroborated Batawi’s account of events. When Reuters called a mobile phone number left on the note, an American who said he was a soldier appeared to be aware of Batawi’s accusation but declined further comment. (MORE)


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