New photos of Abu Ghraib abuse threaten to enflame anger in Iraq |

New photos of Abu Ghraib abuse threaten to enflame anger in Iraq

BAGHDAD, Iraq – New images showing Iraqis abused by U.S. guards at Abu Ghraib prison three years ago threatened Wednesday to enflame public anger already running high over footage of British soldiers beating youths in southern Iraq.Images of naked prisoners, some bloodied and lying on the floor, were taken about the same time as earlier photos that triggered a worldwide scandal and led to military trials and prison sentences for several lower-ranking American soldiers.Many of the pictures broadcast Wednesday by Australia’s Special Broadcasting Service, including some that appear to show corpses, were more graphic than those previously published. One of the video clips depicted a group of naked men with bags over their heads standing together and masturbating. The network said they were forced to participate.Some key Iraqi officials urged their countrymen to react calmly since the pictures were old and the offenders had been punished.In the Middle East, where there have been widespread anti-Western protests recently over caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad, Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya TV aired some of the Australian station’s footage but refrained from using the most shocking and sexually explicit images. CNN also broadcast excerpts.Iraq’s acting human rights minister, Nermine Othman, said she was “horrified” by the pictures and would study whether any action could be taken against those responsible, even though some offenders have been imprisoned.”There will be two kinds of reactions from Iraqis,” she told The Associated Press. “One will be anger and others will feel sorry that they (SBS) didn’t give them to the Iraqi government to investigate. Why use them? Why show them? We have had enough suffering and we don’t want any more.”Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said the Defense Department believed the release of additional images of prisoner abuse was harmful and “could only further inflame and possibly incite unnecessary violence in the world.”Whitman said he did not know whether the photos and video clips were among images the Pentagon has been withholding from public release since 2004.But another defense official said Army officials had reviewed the photographs posted on the Sydney Morning Herald’s Web site and matched them to images that were among those turned over to military authorities in 2004 by a U.S. soldier.The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to address the matter publicly, said the photos contained no new information about abuse.Although the Abu Ghraib case was exhaustively reported here years ago, the new images could revive the issue of treatment of Iraqis by U.S.-led occupation forces, who face the ever-present threat of death or serious injury at the hands of insurgents.This week’s release of video showing British troops beating Iraqi youths during a violent 2004 protest in the southern city of Amarah prompted the Basra provincial administration to severe ties with British authorities.Members of Shiite political groups opposed to the U.S.-led coalition appeared to have engineered that move. They were apparently seeking to exploit public sensitivities after attempts by the British to crack down on Shiite militias.The fresh Abu Ghraib pictures were broadcast as the United States is trying to reach out to the disaffected Sunni Arab community, the backbone of the insurgency, in hopes of encouraging Sunni insurgents to lay down their arms and join the political process.Most of those who suffered abuse at Abu Ghraib were believed to have been Sunni Arabs. Sunni leaders have also alleged mistreatment by Shiite-led Iraqi government security forces, a development that has sharpened sectarian tensions.Mindful of the risks, some key Iraqi officials either avoided comment or sought to play down the images, noting the Americans had already punished Abu Ghraib guards.”I feel bringing up these issues is only going to add heat to an already fragile situation in Iraq and they don’t help anybody at all,” said Labeed Abbawi, an adviser to Iraq’s Foreign Ministry. “It will only lead to extra condemnation of Americans, British and later Iraqis” who have also been accused of abuse.National Security Adviser Mouwafak al-Rubaie said he would discuss the pictures with U.S. authorities. “They don’t help in forming a good relationship between the multinational forces and Iraqi citizens,” he said.Presidential security adviser Lt. Gen. 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