By McClatchy Newspapers
KABUL, Afghanistan — American soldiers herded the prisoners into holding pens of razor-sharp concertina wire, the kind that’s used to corral livestock.
The guards kicked, kneed and punched many of the men until they collapsed in pain. U.S. troops shackled and dragged other prisoners to small isolation rooms, then hung them by their wrists from chains dangling from the wire mesh ceiling.
Former guards and prisoners whom McClatchy interviewed said Bagram was a center of systematic brutality for at least 20 months, starting in late 2001. Yet the soldiers responsible have escaped serious punishment.
The public outcry in the U.S. and abroad has focused on prisoner abuse at the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, but sadistic violence first appeared at Bagram, north of Kabul, and at a similar U.S. internment camp at Kandahar Airfield in southern Afghanistan.
Pattern of abuse
The eight-month McClatchy investigation found a pattern of abuse that continued for years. The abuse of prisoners at Bagram has been reported by U.S. media organizations, in particular the New York Times, which broke several developments in the story. But the extent of the mistreatment, and that it eclipsed the alleged abuse at Guantanamo, hasn’t previously been revealed.
Guards said they routinely beat their prisoners to retaliate for al-Qaeda’s Sept. 11 attacks, unaware that the vast majority of the prisoners had little or no connection to al-Qaeda.
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