suspected hostage cells found in falluja

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    Suspected hostage cells found in Falluja

    US forces have found nearly 20 houses in the Iraqi city of Falluja where they believe people were tortured and where foreign hostages may have been killed.

    On Monday, a CNN correspondent attached to one unit in central Falluja said those troops believed they may have found the wire cage where British hostage Kenneth Bigley was shown on video pleading for his life. He was later beheaded last month.

    "It looks like we found a number of houses," where torture took place, said Major Jim West, an intelligence officer, told reporters. US officers put the number of torture sites "close to 20".

    Among them may have been houses where Bigley, a building contractor, and his two American colleagues, Jack Hensley and Eugene Armstrong, were beheaded after being kidnapped in Baghdad in mid-September, officers said. Jordanian al Qaeda ally Abu Musab al-Zarqawi claimed responsibility for their killings.

    CNN's correspondent in Falluja said an Iraqi captured in the city had taken troops to a house where they found a chicken-wire cage that matched that where Bigley was shown chained on video.

    "Murder and torture" took place at the "atrocity sites", West said, showing images bloodstained walls and floors: "These thugs depended on fear and intimidation."

    "Hostages have been found chained to walls."

    "They had a sick, depraved culture of violence in that city," said Lieutenant Colonel Daniel Wilson of the Marines, who stormed the city on November 8 to wrest it from Sunni Muslim rebels.

    West said Marines had also found a house thought to belong to associates of Zarqawi. However, US intelligence indicates that Zarqawi himself did not live there but visited on occasion.
 
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