WASHINGTON – More than 200 non-Iraqis are among the prisoners held by the United States in Iraq, Army officials said Thursday.
Most of those foreign fighters are from Jordan, Iran and other countries surrounding Iraq, said Col. John Della Jacono. They are among the prisoners captured during the Iraq war and suspected of possible war crimes, said Della Jacono, chief of staff for the Iraq war's land commander, Lt. Gen. David McKiernan.
The foreigners could be subject to military tribunals or other prosecutions for war crimes, said Della Jacono and Col. Karl Goetzke, McKiernan's staff lawyer. Military officials have not decided what to do with them, the Army officers said.
They spoke with Pentagon reporters by telephone Thursday from Iraq, where the United States is holding thousands of prisoners at a camp near the southern city of Umm Qasr.
About 500 prisoners in that southern camp, including the foreigners, are suspected of being top Iraqi military officers, unlawful combatants or participants in crimes such as the spree of looting and bank robberies that followed the fall of Saddam Hussein's government last month.
Among the 500 prisoners in the camp in Umm Qasr is one woman, Della Jacono said.
The Americans are holding about 2,000 at the southern camp after releasing more than 7,000 prisoners. U.S. officials are sorting through those prisoners and other suspected fighters and criminals being picked up daily, Della Jacono said.
"We have thwarted some bank robberies in progress," he said, adding that those types of prisoners are segregated from ones that fought in the war.
Nearly half of those released were civilians swept off the battlefield or lower ranking Iraqi soldiers who have pledged not to fight any more under a "parole agreement," he said.
They must have with them at all times the agreement that promises they won't "engage in any hostile acts or take up arms" again, Della Jacono said. They could be charged with war crimes if they violate the agreement.