California Guard unit investigated in alleged Iraq detainee abuse
LOS ANGELES – A company of the California Army National Guard has been placed on restricted duty amid allegations that members of the unit mistreated detainees in Iraq, military officials said Wednesday.Investigations are under way into the allegations of mistreatment by soldiers with the 1st Battalion of the 184th Infantry Regiment, said Col. David Baldwin, a California National Guard spokesman.Other members of the battalion’s Fullerton-based Alpha Company are under investigation in connection with allegations of extorting money from Iraqi shopkeepers, according to a military official who spoke on condition of anonymity, citing policies against speaking publicly about internal probes.The company, comprising about 130 soldiers, is stationed at Forward Operating Base Falcon outside Baghdad and has been put on restricted duty while the Army reviews its performance. Lt. Col. Patrick Frey, the battalion’s commander, has been suspended.Baldwin and other officials declined to discuss the allegations in detail or identify those involved.”There are unanswered questions – for example, how did it get to this point – and that’s what the investigation is for,” said Capt. Daniel Markert, commander of the battalion’s rear detachment in Modesto.The Los Angeles Times, citing several sources who spoke on condition of anonymity, reported Wednesday that the investigation appeared to deal with allegations that an electric stun gun was used to abuse or torture Iraqi detainees after an insurgent attack in June.One soldier told the newspaper that the use of a stun gun on a man who had been handcuffed and blindfolded was videotaped.As many as 17 soldiers are under investigation, the Times reported.In addition, at least six soldiers in the battalion are alleged to have extorted money from Iraqi business owners, apparently in exchange for protection from insurgents. The payments allegedly exceeded $30,000 and were made in U.S. currency, the newspaper said.It was not clear if anyone has been charged in connection with the extortion allegations.The military revealed earlier this month that 11 soldiers had been charged with dereliction of duty in connection with the alleged mistreatment of detainees in Iraq but did not identify their unit.Some of the soldiers also were charged with mistreatment of a person under their control, assault and making a false statement. One soldier was charged with obstruction of justice. All those charged remain in Baghdad, according to Lt. Col. Steve Boylan, a Task Force Baghdad spokesman.The Army’s Criminal Investigation Division will determine whether the soldiers will face court-martial.