Washington Iraq has executed prisoners of war, the Pentagon's No. 2 general said Wednesday night as he listed a series of what he called unprecedented Iraqi violations of the laws of war.
Marine Gen. Peter Pace, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, apparently was referring to some of the U.S. Army troops captured Sunday by Iraqi forces in the city of An Nasiriyah. Iraqi state television later showed video footage of five living POWs and the bodies of at least five U.S. soldiers.
Defense officials who have viewed the tape have said privately that several of the bodies had execution-style gunshot wounds to their heads.
Intelligence officials have received one uncorroborated report indicating that at least some of the dead soldiers had been captured alive and executed in public, a senior Pentagon official said Wednesday on condition of anonymity. The information -- which did not come from an intercepted communication, as the New York Times reported Wednesday -- is of undetermined reliability, the official said.
Pace, interviewed on CNN's "Larry King Live," said Iraqis had engaged in many atrocities since the war began.
"They have executed prisoners of war. ... They have used women and children as human shields and they have pretended to surrender and then opened fire," Pace said. "I've never seen anything like this. It's disgusting."
The first group of Army soldiers captured was part of a maintenance convoy that made a wrong turn Sunday in the town of An Nasiriyah and was attacked by Iraqi forces. Of that unit, the Army says, two soldiers are confirmed dead, five are confirmed as prisoners of war and eight are missing.
Pentagon officials say the prisoners thought to have been executed are among the eight listed as missing. Final determinations that they are dead and how they were killed can only happen once the bodies are located, officials said.