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‘We’re U.S. citizens,’ detainees say

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KHALDIYA, Iraq — U.S. forces in Iraq are holding six people identifying themselves as Americans and two more saying they are British, a U.S. general said on Tuesday.

Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski said the six prisoners asserting U.S. citizenship spoke with American accents but that their claims had yet to be substantiated.

Law enforcement officials in Washington said on Tuesday that there was little certainty about the identities of the men, their nationalities or even a clear explanation of what they were doing in Iraq, questions that are being investigated in Iraq and the United States by military and civilian authorities. But they said that there was among them no obviously American figure, like John Walker Lindh, the Californian who fought with the Taliban in Afghanistan.

"The truth is that the folks that we've scooped up have, on a number of occasions, multiple identifications from different countries," the secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld, said at a briefing in Washington on Tuesday. "They're quite skilled at confusing people as to what their real nationality is or where they came from or what they're doing."

Karpinski also disclosed the existence of as many as 4,400 Iraqi "security detainees," a new category distinct from prisoners of war or common criminals, Agence France-Presse reported.

Speaking during a tour of Abu Ghraib, the notorious prison outside Baghdad, Karpinski, who is in charge of prisoners in Iraq, provided scant details on the new classification of detainees, other than that they were people suspected of carrying out or planning attacks on U.S. or other troops in Iraq.

Here in Khaldiya, 45 miles west of Baghdad, officers of the small and beleaguered police department vowed to stay on duty despite the slaying the day before of their new chief, Col. Khudheir Mikhlif Ali, gunned down as he drove to his home in the restive Sunni city of Fallujah. Even before the killing, the work of the new police here had been stymied by accusations that they were collaborating with the U.S. military.

"This is our place," said Maj. Mohammad Farhan, 36, sitting in a police station nearly empty because of looting. "We will stay no matter what."