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Senior U.S. defense officials admitted that American troops have been involved in the interrogation of suspected al Qaeda militants in Yemen where horrific, extreme torture is reported to take place in more than a dozen secret prisons, The Associated Press reports. The American officials "denied any participation in or knowledge of human rights abuses," AP adds.
Hundreds — perhaps thousands — of men are held in the prison network, which is run by Yemeni forces and by the United Arab Emirates. The Associated Press' report is based off of interviews with 10 former detainees as well as officials in the Yemeni government and military. No one interviewed by AP said Americans were involved directly in the torture of prisoners, although a Yemeni officer recalled at least two detainees being brought to American "polygraph" and "psychological" experts for interrogations, an accusation U.S. officials have denied.
The account of torture in the prisons is extremely disturbing:
At one main detention complex at Riyan airport in the southern city of Mukalla, former inmates described being crammed into shipping containers smeared with feces and blindfolded for weeks on end. They said they were beaten, trussed up on the "grill" [in which "the victim is tied to a spit like a roast and spun in a circle of fire"] and sexually assaulted. According to a member of the Hadramawt Elite, a Yemeni security force set up by the UAE, American forces were at times only yards away. [...]
"We could hear the screams," said a former detainee held for six months at Riyan airport. "The entire place is gripped by fear. Almost everyone is sick, the rest are near death. Anyone who complains heads directly to the torture chamber." [The Associated Press]
In response to the AP report, chief Defense Department spokeswoman Dana White said: "We always adhere to the highest standards of personal and professional conduct. We would not turn a blind eye, because we are obligated to report any violations of human rights." Read the full findings here.