Iraq Downplays Torture Charges

A member of the Association of Muslim Scholars, name not available, shows an undated picture of an allegedly tortured man, during a press conference in Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday, Nov. 17, 2005.
Iraq's Shiite interior minister accused critics Thursday of exaggerating reports of torture at a lockup seized by U.S. troops last weekend, saying inmates included both Shiites and Sunnis and only a handful showed signs of abuse.

Interior Minister Bayan Jabr said that a number of those detained were suspected foreign terrorists, including one man accused of building six car bombs.

"These are the most criminal terrorists who were in these cells," Jabr said. He said he personally instructed that these particular suspects be taken to the detention center in Jadiriyah because they were considered the most dangerous.

He said that an investigation was underway into the torture allegations, about which he held talks with the top U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. George Casey.

"I reject torture and I will punish those who perform torture," Jabr said. "No one was beheaded, no one was killed."

Jabr said only seven detainees showed signs of abuse "and the people behind the beatings will be punished according to the law."

In other developments:

  • Five U.S. Marines were killed in fighting with al-Qaeda-led insurgents on Wednesday near the Syrian border and an Army soldier died of wounds suffered in Baghdad. Another U.S. Marine was killed in action during combat operations near the western Iraqi city of Haditha.
  • An American businessman was arrested for paying at least $630,000 in kickbacks to U.S. occupation authorities to win reconstruction contracts in Iraq. Philip H. Bloom, a U.S. citizen who has lived in Romania for many years, conspired with Coalition Provisional Authority and U.S. military officials to win millions of dollars in contracts, according to a federal affidavit made public Wednesday.
  • The Iraqi government has asked Interpol's help in securing the arrest and extradition of one of Saddam Hussein's nephews believed in Yemen and facing charges here for his alleged role in the insurgency, the U.S. military said Thursday. Omar Sabawi Ibrahim Hassan al-Tikriti has been charged with "committing acts of terror" by financing insurgents targeting U.S. and Iraqi forces, a U.S. statement said.
  • Two court employees attacked Saddam Hussein and punched him several times after he cursed two Shiite Islam saints, state-run Iraqi television reported Wednesday. Iraqiya television, quoting people close to the investigative judges, did not say when the incident occurred. However, Saddam's lawyers said in July that their client was attacked during an interrogation session.
  • Officials from the European Union on Wednesday ruled out sending an observer mission to Iraq for upcoming elections because it is too dangerous.
  • Wednesday, British Prime Minister Tony Blair ruled out sending more of his country's troops to Iraq to seal the porous border with Iran. Britain has about 8,500 troops in Iraq.