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A majority of 28 mostly European countries have failed to comply with freedom of information requests about their involvement in secret CIA flights carrying suspected terrorists, two human rights groups say.

London-based Reprieve and Madrid-based Access Info Europe yesterday accused European nations of covering up their complicity in the so-called "extraordinary rendition" programme by failing to release flight-traffic data.

The groups said only seven of 28 countries had supplied the requested information. Five countries said they no longer had the data, three refused to release it and 13 had not replied more than 10 weeks after the requests.

Europe's silence is in contrast to the United States', which handed over Federal Aviation Administration records on more than 27,000 flight segments.

The CIA has never acknowledged specific locations, but prisons overseen by US officials reportedly operated in Thailand, Afghanistan, Lithuania, Poland and Romania where terror suspects including Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, mastermind of the September 11 attacks, were interrogated in a government building in the capital, Bucharest.

Human rights groups claim the CIA outsourced torture of detainees to countries where it is permitted.

The Council of Europe estimated in 2007 that 1245 CIA-operated flights had passed over the continent, but an accurate count may be impossible.

The human rights groups said they had identified 54 US-registered aircraft believed to be involved. They submitted freedom of information requests to 28 mostly European countries, as well as air traffic regulator Eurocontrol, for data on the planes' movements.

Along with the US, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Lithuania and Norway released the information. Britain, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia and Slovenia said they did not have it. The groups have not received a reply from Albania, Austria, Azerbaijan, Cape Verde, Georgia, France, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Romania, Russia, Spain and Turkey. Canada, Portugal and Sweden declined to release the information, as did Brussels-based Eurocontrol.

- AP

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