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Minister Goes on Hunger Strike for Iraqi Civilians

A minister who traveled to Baghdad (search) last year to oppose a U.S. war against Iraq has begun a hunger strike (searchto call attention to what he says have been human rights abuses of Iraqi civilians by American troops.

The Rev. Frederick Boyle (searchof the Titusville United Methodist Church in west-central New Jersey attracted attention in February when he spent more than a week in Iraq before the anticipated bombing campaign to call attention to its potential impact on civilians.

With U.S. and other coalition forces still occupying the country 10 months later, Boyle's attention has remained on the war's civilian victims.

Iraqis have been subject to searches in the middle of the night, detentions without charges, destruction of their homes and property, and injury and death, Boyle said.

"What matters now is how we allow Americans occupying a foreign country to portray our values as a nation under God," said Boyle, 54. "We are a compassionate nation and we must not allow our fear of terrorism to transform us into the very thing we detest."

In October, Human Rights Watch, an independent investigatory group, reported 20 documented deaths in Baghdad between May 1 and Sept. 30, and "credible" reports of 94 deaths, involving what the group characterized as "questionable legal circumstances that warrant investigation."

At the time the report was released, a spokesman for the U.S. command in Baghdad, Lt. Col. George Krivo, said "we do take investigations very seriously." He declined to comment specifically on the report.

Boyle said Monday that he had eaten his last meal at noon Saturday.