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Iraqi POWs peaceful and helpful

TILLIL AIRFIELD, Iraq—Some Iraqi prisoners are more than cooperative—they're downright helpful, their captors say.

One officer being held at this airstrip in southern Iraq even told Americans where to find Iraqi uniforms for the underdressed prisoners, plus directions on how to find a weapons and ammunition cache.

Military Police with the Army's 3rd Infantry Division were holding 188 prisoners Monday in simple rings of concertina wire. The Iraqis appeared in good health, looking neither forlorn nor defiant toward their captors.

They surrendered last week to American troops as forces drove past Basra and Nasiriyah en route to Baghdad. They were delivered to this captured airfield where they get meals-ready-to-eat, or MREs, and three liters of bottled water a day—the same ration allowed U.S. soldiers in the supply-strained camp.

So far, no discipline problems have been reported.

"Actually, they've been very helpful," said Capt. Jeff Searl of the 709th military police battalion. He said it was an imprisoned Iraqi brigadier general who gave directions to the ammunition, uniforms and weapons caches.

By day, prisoners mill about the pens, watching as MPs search incoming POWs. At night they sleep on the ground with blankets and with the lights of U.S. Humvees shining on them.

Trenches have been dug in the pens to serve as latrines, although Army Staff Sgt. Matthew Zoelle said they appear to offend the Iraqis sense of modesty. The POWs have arranged boxes by the trenches to provide privacy.

No one has tried to escape, but one prisoner tried to get beyond the razor wire, Zoelle said, "because I guess he was embarrassed to have other people see him going to the bathroom."


(c) 2003, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.