Published September 17, 2003
ABU GHRAIB, Iraq – A U.S. military official said Wednesday that reports a day earlier of eight possible westerners being held in an Iraq prison were wrong.
Lt. Col. George Krivo (search), a military affairs spokesperson, told reporters that there was no evidence that westerners were being held at Abu Ghraib prison (search) for carrying out attacks against coalition soldiers.
As a possible explanation, a military official told Fox News: "Several individuals tried to claim they were citizens to avoid arrest."
Tuesday's report stated that six people who claimed to be Americans and two others who said they were Britons were in U.S. custody, which would have made them the first Westerners reported held in the insurrection against the U.S.-led occupation.
Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski (search), who is in charge of coalition detention centers in Iraq, said on Tuesday that they were considered security detainees, meaning they were suspected of involvement in guerrilla attacks. She did not identify them but said they were being interrogated by military intelligence in Baghdad, where they were being held.
"We actually do have six who are claiming to be Americans, two who are claiming to be from the U.K. We're continuing the interviewing process. The details become sketchy and their story changes," Karpinski said.
She said there were "several ... hundred third-country nationals in custody."
When pressed for details about those being held, she declined to give any other information.
"We're not trying to withhold information from you. Some information remains classified for security reasons," Karpinski said during a tour of Abu Ghraib prison (search), where Saddam Hussein locked up his political opponents.
Asked about the detainees at a Pentagon news conference, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld (search) said: "The truth is that the folks that we've scooped up have, on a number of occasions, multiple identifications from different countries. They're quite skilled at confusing people as to what their real nationality is or where they came from or what they're doing."
Rumsfeld said he had no additional information on the detainees.
The British government said it was investigating the claims.
Fox News' Alastair Wanklyn, Greg Palkot and the Associated Press contributed to this report.