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Pentagon to probe alleged abuse of Iraq detainees

Commanding general in Iraq ordered investigation

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U.S. soldiers in Baghdad sheltered behind a tree before a roadside bomb exploded Friday.

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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, commanding general of U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq, has ordered a criminal investigation into reported incidents of abuse of prisoners by U.S. troops at a detention facility in Iraq, Pentagon officials said Friday.

Officials said the investigation encompasses more than one incident.

The reports came through military channels and are being taken "very seriously," Pentagon officials said.

"These are not rumors," a coalition spokesman said of the reports of abuse. This source said there was "enough concern to the senior military to initiate an investigation."

The number of reports or potential cases of abuse was not made public.

The U.S. Army's criminal investigative division has been called in, the spokesman said, adding that Sanchez was directly involved in ordering the probe.

The Army said this month that three soldiers had been discharged from military service for abusing Iraqi prisoners.

The soldiers faced a court-martial proceeding but agreed instead to a nonjudicial hearing.

Master Sgt. Lisa Girman, Staff Sgt. Scott McKenzie and Spec. Timothy Canjar were all found guilty of dereliction of duty for failing to safeguard Iraqis under their control, and maltreatment of Iraqi detainees.

In addition to the discharges, two soldiers had their ranks lowered, and all three were ordered to forfeit pay for two months.

The soldiers were military police in a unit from Pennsylvania at a southern Iraqi camp when the abuse occurred May 12, according to the Army. An investigation began after other soldiers saw and reported what happened. (Full story)

The abuse included kicking prisoners in the groin and twisting a prisoner's injured arm.

In December, Lt. Col. Allen West was fined $5,000 over two months after a military hearing on accusations that he used improper methods to force an Iraqi detainee to give up information about a plot to assassinate him with an ambush on a U.S. convoy. (Full story)

There was no indication that Sanchez's probe is related to those cases.

Bremer, Bush meet

L. Paul Bremer, the U.S. civilian administrator in Iraq, was in Washington on Friday to discuss the country's political transition with President Bush and his national security team, U.S. officials said.

Bremer sat down with Secretary of State Colin Powell, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and national security adviser Condoleezza Rice before conferring with Bush on Friday afternoon at the White House.

Bremer also is set to attend meetings Monday in New York with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan that will include members of the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council; Jeremy Greenstock, Bremer's British counterpart; and John Negroponte, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

Administration sources said the goal is to win a strong statement from Annan backing the transition plan as well as a commitment to send a U.N. team to Iraq to assist with the effort. (Full story)

The administration is debating "refinements" designed to deal with criticism from Iraqi Shiite leaders, including Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, about the proposed methods of choosing the country's next government.

Sistani has called for direct elections and voiced concerns that the caucus plan is designed to limit Shiite influence. Shiites make up about 60 percent of Iraq's population.

Adnan Pachachi, president of the governing council, warned Thursday that creating procedures for a direct vote would delay the transition to sovereignty. (Full story)

Tens of thousands protested Thursday in the southern city of Basra, and in smaller rallies elsewhere, to call for a direct vote.

Other developments

• A handful of Iraqis who had given the United States information about weapons of mass destruction programs were slain by unknown Iraqi assailants soon thereafter, CNN has learned. The killings began during the early stages of the U.S. occupation last spring. U.S. officials said others were badly injured in attacks after supplying information about the weapons programs. The sources also said computer hard drives believed to contain information about the weapons programs were stolen as U.S. investigators were closing in on them. In one case, officials said, an Iraqi scientist was shot in the back of the head while walking down a street hours after leaving an interview with members of the U.S. Iraq Survey Group, which is searching for weapons of mass destruction.

• Powell said Friday that captured Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein has not provided useful information, and instead appears to be a man who is "trying to protect himself and justify his despicable actions during the time that he was the dictator of Iraq." Powell said that, according to the reports he has read, Saddam "is someone who knows the trouble he is in." Saddam was captured December 13 capture in a hole near his hometown of Tikrit.

• A 30-member delegation has left Tokyo for Iraq ahead of the first deployment of Japanese troops, TV Asahi reported. The Japanese contingent of 600 troops will be based in Samawa, in southeastern Iraq. They will be deployed to noncombat areas for humanitarian purposes. (Full story)

• A roadside bomb detonated Friday in Baghdad, wounding three children and an interpreter, according to a U.S. Army major. One of the children was in serious condition, the Army official said. An informant tipped off U.S.-led coalition forces about the bomb's location, in a residential area of the Iraqi capital, the official said. While the troops tried to secure the area, the bomb detonated -- either by remote control or by timer -- near two U.S. soldiers, the official said. No coalition forces were injured, he said.

• The British Royal Military Police is investigating the death of Sgt. Steven Roberts in March after allegations were raised that he was sent into action without proper body equipment. Roberts, 33, was killed southwest of Basra after being shot in the chest. A Defense Ministry report showed that Roberts was issued specialized body armor but was ordered to give it back because his regiment didn't have enough. He was given standard armor instead. (Full story)

CNN's John King, Sheila MacVicar, Karl Penhaul, Robin Oakley and Barbara Starr contributed to this report.

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