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Report: Detainee punching on video

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- Videotapes of riot squads subduing troublesome terror suspects at the US prison camp at Guantanamo Bay show the guards punching some detainees, tying one to a gurney for questioning, and forcing a dozen to strip from the waist down, according to a secret report. One squad was all female, traumatizing some Muslim prisoners.

Investigators from US Southern Command in Miami, which oversees the camp in Cuba, wrote the report that was obtained by the Associated Press after spending a little over a week in June reviewing 20 of some 500 hours of videotapes involving ''Immediate Reaction Forces."

The camp's layout prevented videotaping in all the cells where the five-person teams operated, the report said.

Although the report cited several cases of physical force, reviewers said they found no evidence of systemic detainee abuse, according to the six-page summary dated June 19, 2004. An official familiar with the report authenticated it, speaking to AP on condition of anonymity. AP also reviewed some of the videotape footage.

The tapes raised questions about mistreatment and misconduct, however, said the investigators, who suggested some clips needed more scrutiny to rule out abuse. The military has cited 10 substantiated cases of abuse at Guantanamo, and announced yesterday an extension would be granted to interview witnesses in the United States and abroad.

One such clip the investigators flagged was from Feb. 17, 2004. It showed ''one or more" team members punching a detainee ''on an area of his body that seemingly would be inconsistent with striking a pressure point," which is a sanctioned tactic for subduing prisoners.

In five other clips showing detainees who appeared to have been punched by team members, the investigators said: ''The punching was in line with accepted law enforcement practice."

In other ''questionable" cases, reviewers said a video showed a guard kneeing a detainee in the head. . A separate clip captured a platoon leader taunting a detainee with pepper spray and repeatedly spraying him before letting the reaction team enter the cell, reviewers wrote.

Investigators also noted about a dozen cases where detainees were stripped from the waist down and taken to the ''Romeo block," of the camp. No female guards were involved, they said.

Romeo block is a camp section where prisoners were often left naked for days, according to two former detainees, Britons Shafiq Rasul and Asif Iqbal, who were released last year.

Although no female guards were videotaped in any of the stripping cases, investigators cautioned the US government about using the all-female team to handle disruptive detainees, citing religious and cultural issues. Many of the prisoners are Muslim men and under strict interpretations of Islam view contact with women other than their wives as taboo.

''Several detainees express displeasure about female MPs either escorting them, or touching them as members of an IRF team," the report says. ''Because some have questioned our sensitivity to the detainees' religion and culture, we believe that talking points are appropriate to address incorporation of female soldiers into the guard force."

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