Iraq Downplays Torture Charges


Jabr appeared with senior commanders to try to defuse a crisis that grew Tuesday after Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, under pressure from the Americans, announced that 173 detainees had been found by U.S. soldiers at the Jadriyah facility. Some appeared malnourished and showed signs of torture, he said.

A Pentagon official told CBS News the Iraqi running the detention facilities was a former member of Saddam Hussein's regime and was complicit in the abuse and torture. The official called it a mess the Iraqi government doesn't nee

Most of the detainees were believed to be Sunni Arabs, prompting Sunni politicians to demand an international investigation. Sunni leaders, who have long complained of sectarian abuse by Shiite-led security forces, accused the government of trying to intimidate them from voting in the Dec. 15 parliamentary election.

Shiites and Kurds dominate the government's security services, while most of the insurgents are Sunni Arabs.

CBS News correspondent Kimberly Dozier reports angry Sunnis claim it's part of a pattern of abuse, which they've documented over the past year, with interviews and photographs. They called the latest finding worse than Abu Ghraib.

U.S. officials who have been briefed told CBS News national security correspondent David Martin that they're worried the abuse scandal could undo all the progress that's been made to bring the various factions into the political process.

The U.S. Embassy said in a statement that it was "united" with the Iraqi government in deploring the mistreatment of detainees.

"Detainee abuse is not and will not be tolerated by either the Iraqi government or the Multi-National Forces in Iraq," it said.

Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, a senior U.S. military officer in Iraq, told reporters that U.S. troops, led by U.S. Brig. Gen. Karl Horst, went to the facility because a 15-year-old boy was believed to be held there illegally.

Interior Ministry officers denied the U.S. troops entrance until Horst made a phone call to Jabr, who ordered the officers to allow the general and his men inside, Lynch said.

"When he entered the facility, Gen. Horst saw 169 individuals that had been detained. Some of those individuals looked like they had been abused, malnourished and mistreated," Lynch said. "Gen. Horst and his soldiers took control of the facility, took appropriate actions with the Iraqi leadership and the Iraqi government."

U.S. officials refused to discuss exactly how many detainees appeared to be mistreated or give any other details, citing the investigation currently under way.