AAP, Aug. 12, 2004

US marines accused of Afghan abuse

American authorities have reportedly launched an inquiry into allegations of sexual and physical abuse by US marines against 35 villagers in central Afghanistan.

The allegations were aired last night in an SBS Dateline report by Melbourne journalist Carmela Baranowska, who was feared kidnapped by the Taliban in late June.

In the report, former prisoners alleged US marines used the tactic of sexual humiliation, which Baranowska described as similar to that which occurred at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

Baranowska said she was initially embedded with US forces before travelling independently through Oruzgan province in remote central Afghanistan.

She investigated the cases of 35 men who had been detained for up to five days by US marines on suspicion of being involved with the Taliban or al-Qaeda.

At the conclusion of the report it was announced that all the allegations had been put to US authorities and last night they had confirmed that 35 villagers were detained on June 23.

In the television report, 27-year-old Afghan villager Wali Mohammad described in graphic detail his alleged abuse by 20 Americans soldiers.

"They fingered us, beat us and humiliated us," he said.

"There were youngsters as well. They took off my clothes... fingering the anus is against Islam.

"They were all laughing and mocking."

Dateline reported that the authorities said they did not have any records of abuse but in light of the program they had announced an inquiry into the matter.

On Monday, a spokesman for Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said the Federal Government had not been made aware of the allegations.

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