WASHINGTON – The Navy said Friday it has filed assault and other criminal charges against three more of its elite SEAL commandos in connection with probes of prisoner abuse in Iraq.
The three, whose names were not released, are in addition to four SEALs charged Sept. 2 with assault and other alleged offenses in connection with the death of a prisoner last November.
At the time of the reported abuse, all seven were members of a Sea-Air-Land, or SEAL, unit known as SEAL Team-7 (search ), a counterterrorist group that sometimes operated in Iraq with CIA officers. It is based at Coronado, Calif., and reports to the Naval Special Warfare Command (search) in San Diego.
In addition to the November 2003 death, an undisclosed number of SEALs were involved in the case of a detainee who died April 5, 2004 under suspicious circumstances at a U.S. Army logistics base near the northern city of Mosul, an Army preliminary investigation report said.
At least one of the three SEALs charged Friday is accused of involvement in the April case, said a senior defense official who discussed the case on condition of anonymity because the investigation is continuing.
According to a brief portion of the Army investigation report reviewed by The Associated Press, the death occurred at Logistics Support Area Diamondback, near Mosul, and the senior defense official said the detainee was at the 67th Combat Support Hospital at Diamondback.
The individual was detained by SEALs "after a struggle," the report said. After he was interrogated by a person the report did not identify, the detainee was "allowed to sleep."
At 1:37 a.m. on April 5, the detainee was checked and "found to be unresponsive," the report said without elaborating. He was not then in the SEALs' custody, the defense official said.
An autopsy was ordered but the result was unknown when the Army report was written. The detainee's name was not mentioned.
The charges against the three SEALs are assault, aggravated assault with intent to cause death or serious bodily harm, conduct unbecoming, obstruction of justice, assault with a dangerous weapon, maltreatment of detainees, dereliction of duty and failure to report abuse to superior authorities.
All of the charges are punishable under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (search).
Cmdr. Jeff Bender, a spokesman for Naval Special Warfare Command, said he could not say which charges were filed against which of the three SEALs.
The first four SEALS charged Sept. 2 have requested but not yet received legal counsel from the Navy, Bender said, and investigating officers have yet to be assigned to those cases. Thus their Article 32, or pretrial, hearings have not yet been scheduled.
The Army has taken most of the criticism for the mistreatment of detainees in Iraq and Afghanistan because it was the main service involved at Abu Ghraib (search), where prisoners were physically abused and sexually humiliated by military police and intelligence soldiers last fall.
The abuse associated with the four SEALs charged Sept. 2 did not happen at Abu Ghraib, although the detainee who was beaten, Manadel al-Jamadi, eventually died at Abu Ghraib, officials have said.
Al-Jamadi was thought to have been connected with an attack on an International Committee of the Red Cross facility. In detaining al-Jamadi on Nov. 4, 2003, a SEAL subdued him by hitting him on the side of the head with the butt of a gun, according to an Army report released last month that probed the role of Army intelligence units in Iraq prisoner abuse.
Two CIA personnel brought al-Jamadi to Abu Ghraib and put him in a shower room with a sandbag on his head. He was dead 45 minutes later. An autopsy determined he died of a blood clot in his head, probably caused by being hit with the gun, the Army has said.
A day after al-Jamadi died, U.S. personnel sneaked the body out of the prison on a stretcher, disguised so the dead person would appear to other inmates only to have been sick, the Army report said.