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New Abuse Allegations by American Guards of Iraqi Prisoners Surface - 2004-05-22


New allegations of abuse by American guards of Iraqi prisoners have surfaced along with more photos of naked inmates being humiliated. This, a day after the Pentagon disclosed that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld approved aggressive interrogation techniques for detainees captured in the war in Afghanistan.

The latest photographs, which appeared on the front page of the Washington Post and on websites and news channels around the world, show Iraqis being forced to strip naked and being dragged through Abu Ghraib prison.

On a day when more than 450 detainees were released from the same prison, the images, which were broadcast on Arab television, drew strong reaction from Iraqis.

One Iraqi calls what took place in the prison a terrorist act.

In Washington, the head of the Pentagon's Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Richard Myers, faced more questioning on the scandal from members of Congress, telling them the military is still in the midst of a full-scale investigation "to look at every little thread that we can possibly find here to see if there are other situations where abuse could have occurred."

In Iraq, a day after Iraqi police, backed by American troops, raided the home and office of Governing Council member Ahmad Chalabi, his fellow council members issued a statement expressing solidarity with the man who was once viewed by the United States as a possible successor to Saddam Hussein. Although U.S. officials say Thursday's raid was Iraqi-led and carried out with no advance warning, Council spokesman Hameed al-Kafaei held the U.S.-led coalition responsible, telling VOA it will only serve to elevate Mr. Chalabi's stature among the Iraqi people.

"This has enhanced Dr. Chalabi's role and image in the council and in the whole of Iraq because he is now being seen as independent while before he was seen as a friend of America," he said.

There has yet to be a full explanation from either Iraqi or U.S. authorities about why Mr. Chalabi's home and offices were raided and why documents and other items were taken. What is clear is that his ideas about Iraq's future and those held by the U.S. led occupation over the past few months had begun to diverge. Mr. Chalabi strongly opposed, for example, the decision by the coalition to allow members of Saddam Hussein's Baath party to return to jobs they once held under his regime.

In southern Iraq meanwhile, there was more heavy fighting Friday between American troops and gunmen backing rebel cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, with much of the fighting taking place near some of Shiite Islam's holiest shrines. And, U.S. General Mark Kimmitt says two people are now being detained for questioning for suspected involvement in the beheading of American civilian Nick Berg earlier this month.

"We have some intelligence that would suggest they have knowledge, perhaps some culpability but we are not going to know until we have actually finished the questioning," he said.

Neither the identities of those being questioned nor their affiliation were released. U.S. intelligence officials have said they believe the hooded person seen in the videotape of the beheading was suspected Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Those responsible said they acted in retaliation for the abuse of Iraqi prisoners.

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