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US waterboarded Gadhafi opponents: HRW

WASHINGTON--A human rights organization says it has collected evidence of two previously unreported cases in which U.S. agents used waterboarding or a similar harsh interrogation technique on Libyan militants held by American forces in Afghanistan.

In a report released on Thursday, Human Rights Watch (HRW) also says it acquired new evidence of the extent to which the United States and some of its allies, including Great Britain, allegedly detained exiled opponents of late Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi and forcibly transferred them back to Libya.

Human Rights Watch said that it assembled its report by interviewing victims and witnesses familiar with alleged abuses and by combing through once-secret archives that became public during the Libyan revolution that led to Gadhafi's ouster and eventual death.

Documents found in the archives following the collapse of Gadhafi's regime included classified correspondence between top Libyan officials and officials from the CIA and Britain's spy agencies MI5 and MI6.

They illustrate how, between late 2003 when Gadhafi agreed to give up his weapons of mass destruction programs, and the 2011 Libyan revolution, Gadhafi and Western intelligence agencies quietly cooperated in battling Islamic militants.

“Not only did the U.S. deliver Gadhafi his enemies on a silver platter, but it seems the CIA tortured many of them first,” Laura Pitter, a counterterrorism expert at Human Rights Watch and author of the report, said in a written statement.

“The scope of Bush administration abuse appears far broader than previously acknowledged and underscores the importance of opening up a full-scale inquiry into what happened,” she said.

Waterboarding is a form of simulated drowning that President Barack Obama and human rights activists have condemned as torture.

But U.S. and British officials defended their governments' actions.

“It can't come as a surprise that the Central Intelligence Agency works with foreign governments to help protect our country from terrorism and other deadly threats. That is exactly what we are expected to do,” said Jennifer Youngblood, a CIA spokeswoman.

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