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Scribes beaten, starved by US forces: Report

In an apparent embarrassment to US-led forces, two western scribes were allegedly arrested, beaten up by US forces.

world Updated: Apr 03, 2003 20:33 IST
PTI

In what could be seen as an embarrassment to US-led invading forces, two western journalists were allegedly arrested, beaten up and deprived of food and water in Iraq by American armymen.

Luis Castro and Victor Silva, both reporters working for RTP Portuguese television, were allegedly held for four days, had their equipment, vehicle and video tapes confiscated, and were then escorted out of Iraq by the 101st Airborne Division of US army to Kuwait City, Jeddah-based Arab News reported.

It said that despite possessing the proper 'Unilateral Journalist' accreditation issued by the Coalition Forces Central Command, both journalists were detained.

"I have covered 10 wars in the past six years in Angola, Afghanistan, Zaire, and East Timor. I have been arrested three times in Africa, but have never been subjected to such treatment or been physically beaten before," Castro said in an interview to Arab News.

Castro and Silva entered Iraq 10 days ago. They had been to Umm Qasr and Basra and were traveling to Najaf when they were stopped by the military police.

According to Castro, their accredited identification was checked and they were given the all clear to proceed.

"Suddenly, for no reason, the situation changed," Castro said. "We were ordered down on the ground by the soldiers. They stepped on our hands and backs and handcuffed us."

"We were put in our own car. The (US) soldiers used our satellite phones to call their families at home. I begged them to allow me to use my own phone to call my family, but they refused. When I protested, they pushed me to the ground and kicked me in the ribs and legs." More

After being held for four days, they two journalists transported to the 101st Airborne Division to be escorted out of Iraq, the report said.

Castro has had all his tapes and equipment returned to him, but not his jeep, he said.

Castro alleged they were subjected to such treatment as they were not "embedded" with allied forces and are a "threat" because there could be no "control" on their reporting.

"I believe the reason we were detained was because we are not embedded with the US forces," Castro said.

"Embedded journalists are always escorted by military minders. What they write is controlled and, through them, the military feeds its own version of the facts to the world. When independent journalists such as us come around, we pose a threat because they cannot control what we write."

"A lieutenant in charge of the military police told me, My men...are trained only to attack, please try to understand," Castro claimed.

He said at Camp Udairi, where they were awaiting a helicopter to take them out of Iraq, they told their stories to members of the US Marines.

One soldier, who Castro asked not be identified, wrote out a note, which was shown to Arab News. The note said: "I am so sorry that you had to endure such bad conditions, but remember that I care and pray you can forgive."

"The Americans in Iraq are totally crazy and are afraid of everything that moves," said Castro, "I would have expected this to happen to us at the hands of the Iraqis, but not at the hands of the Americans."

"The Americans call themselves liberators, but look what they have done to us," he added.