The New York Times
June 13, 2003

Trying to Escape From Custody, Iraqi Prisoner Is Shot to Death


WASHINGTON, June 12 _ An Iraqi prisoner died today of gunshot wounds suffered when he tried to escape from a coalition-run camp in Baghdad, the United States Central Command said. Another prisoner who tried to escape was recaptured.

The attempted escapes from the camp at the Baghdad International Airport came a day after military investigators announced an inquiry into whether United States forces were responsible for the death of another Iraqi prisoner at a different camp.

Military officials today identified that Iraqi as Naem Sadoon Hatab, 52, who was captured in Tallil on June 3 while trying to sell an American M-16 rifle, and transferred to a prisoner camp run by the Marines near Nasiriya. Military officials mistakenly said on Wednesday that he been captured on May 3.

Mr. Hatab was interrogated by the Marines on June 4 and treated the next day for "health problems," a military official said. His body was found in his cell on June 6. A preliminary autopsy was inconclusive, and military officials would not say today how Mr. Hatab died. The Naval Criminal Investigative Service is examining evidence that "foul play" was involved, a military official said, but he said it was unclear whether American forces, other prisoners or other factors were responsible for Mr. Hatab's death.

A spokesman for the Marine Corps, Maj. Matthew McLaughlin, said the marine commandant, Gen. Michael W. Hagee, was aware of the incident and was awaiting the outcome of the inquiry. "The Marine Corps is committed to treating all P.O.W.'s in accordance with the Geneva Convention and respects the dignity of all human life," Major McLaughlin said in a statement.

A spokesman for the Central Command, Maj. Brad Lowell, said today it was not clear if Mr. Hatab was an Iraqi soldier or a former member of Saddam Hussein's government. Other military officials have said he was not among the 55 Iraqis who are most wanted by American authorities.

Details surrounding Mr. Hatab's death as well as the escape attempts today in Baghdad were sketchy. The military did not identify the men who tried to escape, or specify whether they were prisoners of war or suspected criminals. A one-paragraph statement from the Central Command said only that the prisoners tried to escape and that one of the men was later taken to an Iraqi hospital where he died from Trying to Escape From Custody, .ems "gunshot wounds sustained in the incident."

The American-led coalition in Iraq is holding more than 2,000 prisoners in two main camps. Most of them are looters and other suspected criminals. Several thousand Iraqi soldiers who surrendered or were captured during the war have been released in the last several weeks.

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