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New images of prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib surface

WASHINGTON—New photos emerged Wednesday that showed U.S. soldiers abusing and humiliating Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison in 2003, and Bush administration officials warned that they could add to Muslim anger at the United States.

The previously unpublished images were first broadcast by the Australian Special Broadcasting Service's "Dateline" program, then quickly picked up by other media organizations in the United States and abroad.

The photos show U.S. soldiers menacing hooded male prisoners with dogs and naked prisoners handcuffed together or to beds and other objects. Some of the men appear to have cigarette burns on their arms and buttocks. In one photo, five naked men are stacked in a human pyramid.

The photos were among hundreds taken by soldiers at the Baghdad prison in 2003 showing prisoner abuse and torture. The first of the photos surfaced in 2004. According to the Australian program, the latest photos are part of 70 unreleased images and videos that the Bush administration has tried to withhold from the public.

The release of the photos came amid protests by Muslims around the world over Danish cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad and a London newspaper's publication of photos showing British soldiers beating Iraqi prisoners.

Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said the Abu Ghraib images "could only further inflame and possibly incite unnecessary violence in the world" and endanger U.S. troops.

"The abuses at Abu Ghraib have been fully investigated," Whitman said. "As you know, it's been the policy of this department—it has been and continues to be—that all detainees in our custody will be treated humanely."

Whitman said that 25 servicemen and women have been prosecuted for criminal acts associated with prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib and that the scandal had prompted the Defense Department to review its detention operations around the world. As a result, 600 criminal investigations and more than 200 criminal prosecutions have occurred, he said.

Amnesty International said that an independent investigation should look at the entire military chain of command, the Central Intelligence Agency and private military contractors. Only one senior officer has been reprimanded and no civilians who devised detention policies have been held accountable, said William F. Schulz, the group's executive director.

"Prosecutions of primarily lower-level military personnel create the impression that those on the front lines are the scapegoats for policy set at the top," Schulz said.

John B. Bellinger III, the State Department's top legal officer, said the new photos didn't offer new information and would only fuel the violent protests over the Danish cartoons.

"It's unfortunate ... that the photographs are continuing to come out because I think it simply fans the flames at a time that sentiments on these issues are raw around the world," he said. "But the photographs show conduct that is absolutely disgusting."

Bellinger also said that the Bush administration has fought the release of the new pictures in court because they were an invasion of the detainees' privacy.

Human rights groups said the photos illustrate the need for an independent investigation into allegations of abuse at U.S. detention facilities in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.


(Knight Ridder Newspapers correspondent Jonathan S. Landay contributed to this report.)


(c) 2006, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.