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The United States military has secretly handed over more than 200 militants to the intelligence services of Saudi Arabia, Egypt and other countries, nearly all in the past two years, as part of an effort to reduce the burden of detaining and interrogating foreign fighters captured in Iraq and Afghanistan, American military officials have told The New York Times.

The system is similar in some ways to the rendition program used by the Central Intelligence Agency since the Sept. 11 attacks to secretly transfer people suspected of being militants back to their home countries to be jailed and questioned, the Times reported in its Thursday editions.

But there are significant differences, the paper noted. It cited military officials as saying the prisoners can block their transfers to home countries. Officials of the International Committee of the Red Cross interview all detainees before they are returned to their home countries, Red Cross spokesman Bernard Barrett told the Times.

Many of these militants are initially held, without notification to the Red Cross, sometimes for weeks at a time, in secret at a camp in Iraq and another in Afghanistan run by American Special Operations forces, the military officials told the Times, adding that foreign intelligence officers had been allowed access to these camps to question militants as a prelude to the transfers.

In interviews, the military officials told the paper that the transfers represented an effort by the United States to find a better way to detain and interrogate the militants.

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