updated 7/3/2004 11:53:44 AM ET 2004-07-03T15:53:44

The American general formerly in charge of Abu Ghraib prison says there are signs Israelis were involved in interrogating Iraqi detainees at another facility.

Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, who was suspended in May over allegations of prisoner abuse, said she met a man who told her he was Israeli during a visit to a Baghdad intelligence center with a senior coalition general.

“I saw an individual there that I hadn’t had the opportunity to meet before, and I asked him what did he do there, was he an interpreter — he was clearly from the Middle East,” Karpinski told British Broadcasting Corp. radio in an interview broadcast Saturday. “He said, ’Well I do some of the interrogation here. I speak Arabic but I’m not an Arab; I’m from Israel.’

“I was really kind of surprised by that ... He didn’t elaborate any more than to say he was working with them and there were people from lots of different places that were involved in the operation,” Karpinski added.

Israel denies involvement
Israel’s Foreign Ministry told the BBC that reports of Israeli troops or interrogators in Iraq were “completely untrue.” Israeli officials could not immediately be reached by The Associated Press.

The U.S. military has used private contract workers in the interrogations along with military personnel.

The presence of Israeli forces in Iraq would inflame opinion in the Muslim world, where many compare the abuse of prisoners by U.S. forces to Israel’s treatment of Palestinian detainees.

Until a 1999 ruling by the Israeli Supreme Court, Israeli secret service interrogators were allowed to use “moderate physical pressure” — a euphemism, critics said, for torture.

Among the practices allowed prior to 1999 were sleep deprivation, keeping prisoners in uncomfortable positions for long periods and covering their heads with filthy sacks. Former prisoners say some of those techniques also were used by U.S. forces in Iraq.

Karpinski was suspended from command of the 800th Military Police Brigade after the publication in April of photos showing soldiers abusing and humiliating naked Iraqi detainees at Abu Ghraib. She has said she did not know about the abuse and is being made a scapegoat in the scandal.

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