Some of the 21 U.S. soldiers imprisoned by Iraq were physically abused by their captors during interrogations but apparently received proper medical care, the Pentagon said.

The comments, delivered by spokesman Pete Williams on Tuesday, appeared as an effort to dismiss suggestions that several prisoners were denied proper medical care."The U.S. prisoners of war were certainly mistreated in the process of their interrogations," Williams said.

But, when asked whether the abuse stemmed from improper medical care or interrogation sessions, he responded, "I think it would be more the way they were interrogated." Williams did not elaborate.

On Monday, Air Force Brig. Gen. Robert Poel, commander of Malcolm Grow Medical Center, suggested several captured Air Force pilots may have been harmed after the interrogations and during imprisonment.

"In some cases, they were injuries from captivity," he said. "I think we can say that the prisoners were treated somewhat harshly."

Poel acknowledged that three of the pilots could have suffered their injuries when ejecting from their aircraft but added that the wounds may have been caused by ill treatment during confinement.

Within the next few days the former prisoners will tell their own stories, Williams said, when the press is granted inverviews.