U.S. lawmakers demanded an explanation from the Bush administration regarding allegations that U.S. military police abused Iraqi prisoners.
Lawmakers condemned the alleged mistreatment of Iraqi detainees in the strongest terms and called for a congressional investigation.
The Republican-led Senate and House Armed Services Committees held closed-door briefings with Army officials to discuss the matter.
Emerging from the Senate briefing, Senator Ted Kennedy, a Massachusetts Democrat, said suspected abuses may have occurred elsewhere in Iraq or in Afghanistan as well.
?It seems that this whole incident is not just limited to one particular prison, but has a broader application,? he said. ?I think it is imperative that there be a complete investigation, not only of that prison and not only of the American servicemen, but also the private contractors.?
Many lawmakers want to know why they were not told of the matter by administration officials much earlier. Senator John McCain is an Arizona Republican. ?Not an hour goes by where there is not an additional allegation and unfortunately, the Congress in general and the Senate Armed Services Committee in particular has been, up until this morning, kept completely in the dark,? he said.
Army Vice Chief of Staff General George Casey told committee members those who are found guilty will be punished appropriately. ?We are fully committed to getting to the bottom of this and holding accountable those who we find guilty through the judicial process,? he added.
Lawmakers called for swift accountability. Congressman Doug Bereuter is a Nebraska Republican. ?What has allegedly happened is so foreign to our country's principle and tradition and those of our armed forces, that these people conducting or condoning such abuse do not deserve to be called Americans,? he stated.
Photos widely televised showed Iraqi detainees apparently being sexually humiliated and physically abused have prompted outrage around the world.
Lawmakers expressed concern the alleged abuse could complicate U.S. efforts in Iraq and incite more violence against U.S. troops there.