updated 3/21/2004 1:59:16 PM ET 2004-03-21T18:59:16

Reports that led to charges against six U.S. soldiers accused of abusing detainees at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison came from within the military, not from prisoner complaints, a senior U.S. military official said Sunday.

The soldiers, members of a military police unit, were charged Saturday with a range of crimes, including conspiracy, dereliction of duty, cruelty and maltreatment, assault and indecent acts with another person. The military said about 20 detainees at the prison on the western outskirts of Baghdad were involved.

The alleged offenses were committed in November and December and came to the attention of military authorities in January.

The soldiers belong to the U.S. Army’s 800th Military Police Brigade, which operates 12 prisons across Iraq. Their names were not released.

Soldiers face grand jury hearing
The probe of the six MPs is being handled by the Army’s Criminal Investigation Division Command. They face an Article 32 hearing, the military equivalent of a grand jury, which will decide whether there is enough evidence to prosecute them.

Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, the U.S. military’s deputy director of operations, announced the charges on Saturday.

On Sunday, another senior U.S. official, speaking to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity, said the matter “originated within the U.S. military” and was “not brought forward by the detainees themselves.” He declined to elaborate.

The official declined to provide details about the evidence against the soldiers or say what maximum punishment they would get if tried and convicted.

He said the six MPs are still in Iraq and working on other tasks. They “have been taken away from duties involving the detainees,” he said.

The six are among 17 U.S. troops — including a battalion commander and a company commander — suspended from normal duty last month pending an inquiry into alleged abuse of Iraqi prisoners. Results of an investigation of the other 11 have yet to be announced.

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