U.S. soldiers have rescued 24 emaciatedboysfrom a squalid orphanage for special needs children run by the Iraqi government in central Baghdad.
"You could see literally every bone in their bodies, they were so skinny," Staff Sgt. Michael Beal toldCBS News on Tuesday. "They had no energy to move whatsoever, no expressions on their faces."
The soldiers came across the orphanage while conducting a routine patrol,CBS News and BBC Newsare reporting.Someof the soldiers looked over the wall surrounding the building and saw the boys lying naked and lifeless on the ground.
"They thought they were all dead," Staff Sgt. Mitchell Gibson told CBS, recounting what his comrades saw.
Inside the orphanage, they found more boys, some lying on the ground, tied to their beds and covered in feces. One boy, who couldn't lift his head, had sores across his body that were covered in flies.
The boys had been held in these conditions for at least a month, the soldiers said.
Thechildren have been transferred to a different orphanage and are now getting medical treatment. The caretaker in charge of the institution and two female employees were captured and handed over to Iraqi authorities, but have since disappeared.
Two security guards were arrested and remain in custody on the orders of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki.
Capt. Benjamin Morales remembers seeing the caretaker when the soldiers first entered the orphanage.
"I got extremely angry," he said. "It took every muscle in my bodyto restrain myself from … going after that guy."
Despite the children's starving state, the orphanage was stocked with cans of food and piles of new clothing, which U.S. soldiers believe were destined to be sold at area markets.