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Egyptian army detained, tortured opponents

CAIRO, Feb. 9 (UPI) -- Human-rights groups claim the Egyptian army has secretly detained thousands of those suspected of opposing the Mubarak government, torturing some.

Britain's The Guardian reports human-rights campaigners naysay claims of neutrality by the Egyptian military, alleging the army's involvement in disappearances and torture.

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Former detainees allege tortuous physical abuse, such as electric shock, at the hands of Egyptian soldiers who accused them of acting for foreign powers, including Hamas and Israel.

Hossam Bahgat, director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights in Cairo, says possibly thousands of ordinary people have "disappeared" into army custody for carrying a political flyer, attending the recent demonstrations or for the way they look.

One of those men was a 23-year-old giving his name only as Ashraf, fearing a repeat arrest. He was detained Friday at Tahrir Square carrying a box of medical supplies intended for one of the makeshift clinics treating protesters, The Guardian said.

"I was on a side street and a soldier stopped me and asked me where I was going. I told him and he accused me of working for foreign enemies and other soldiers rushed over and they all started hitting me with their guns," Ashraf said.

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"They put me in a room. An officer came and asked me who was paying me to be against the government. When I said I wanted a better government he hit me across the head and I fell to the floor. Then soldiers started kicking me. One of them kept kicking me between my legs," Ashraf said.

"They got a bayonet and threatened to rape me with it. Then they waved it between my legs. They said I could die there or I could disappear into prison and no one would ever know. The torture was painful but the idea of disappearing in a military prison was really frightening."

Human Rights Watch says it has documented 119 arrests of civilians by the military but alleges there have been more.

"It's unusual and to the best of our knowledge it's also unprecedented for the army to be doing this," Bahgat said.

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