The CIA's inspection team has launched an investigation into the death of an Iraqi prisoner at the notorious Abu Ghraib prison who died after being interrogated by US agents, it was revealed yesterday.
At the same time the Pentagon announced that seven more American soldiers have been reprimanded over the abuse and torture of Iraqi prisoners at the jail.
The CIA insists that none of its agents were involved in the abuse of prisoners. However, a spokesman admitted that an inquiry by the agency's Inspector General was under way. "One prisoner at that prison who we were talking to did die, and so there is an ongoing IG investigation about why did that guy die. But I don't have anything to connect us to the ugliness that went on there."
The announcement adds to a growing picture of widespread abuse at the prison notorious during the rule of Saddam Hussein as a location for murder and torture of political prisoners.
Military officials in Baghdad said yesterday six soldiers all of them officers and non-commissioned officers have been given the strongest administrative punishment available. While they will not face courts martial, the actions could end their careers. A seventh soldier received a less severe reprimand.
The reprimands will do little to placate the fury and anger in the Arab world generated by revelations about the abuse and torture of Iraqi prisoners by US troops and civilian contractors.
Yesterday Brigadier General Janis Karpinski, the senior officer in charge of the prison until she was relieved of her duties, repeated her claim that she did not know about the prisoner abuse while it was happening.
General Karpinski, commander of the 800th Military Police Brigade, said that in one photograph from the prison, there appeared to be more Americans involved in the alleged abuse than the six MPs who had already been charged.
"One photograph showed 32 boots. I'm saying other people than the military police may be involved," she said.
It emerged at the weekend that at least one prisoner has died in Abu Ghraib and reports suggest that US personnel had tried to cover up his death. It may be this prisoner's death the CIA is investigating.
A number of inquiries are investigating the abuse, alleged to have been carried out at the end of last year. Yesterday, The New York Times reported that an internal army investigation has discovered a virtual collapse of the command structure in the prison. A leaked report of the investigation said mid-level military intelligence officers had been allowed to avoid the normal chain of command to issue "questionable" orders to personnel from the reserve military police unit handling prison guard duty.
A second review has been ordered by Lieutenant General James Helmly, the head of the Army Reserve, to assess the training of all reservists, especially those who are likely to have to deal with prisoners. In addition to the seven soldiers who have been reprimanded, six members of an Army Reserve military police unit assigned to Abu Ghraib face charges of assault, cruelty, indecent acts and maltreatment of detainees.
In Baghdad yesterday, the Iraqi Foreign Minister, Hoshyar Zibari, condemned the alleged abuse and called for an independent inquiry to investigate the reports. "The position of the Foreign Ministry is to condemn this kind of behavior," he said.
The scandal has done nothing to help the White House as it seeks to stand by its 30 June deadline for a handover of sovereignty to an Iraqi authority. A White House spokesman said yesterday that the President felt that those responsible should be punished for their "shameful actions".
Around 50 former US diplomats have said President Bush's Middle East policy was costing the United States credibility, prestige and friends, in an open letter to be made public today. The letter expresses the signatories' support for 52 retired British diplomats who spoke out against Prime Minister Tony Blair last week.
US TROOPS UNDER INVESTIGATION OVER 'TORTURE VIDEOS'
By Andrew Clennell
Those charged are:
Staff Sergeant Ivan L 'Chip' Frederick II, 37, from Virginia
He wrote in a 18 December e-mail to an uncle that he questioned some of the abuses he witnessed and was told: "This is how military intelligence wants it done." He also said: "They usually end up breaking within hours."
Specialist Sabrina D Harman from Virginia
A reservist who before the war was assistant manager at a pizzeria.
Her mother Robin said: "She's being railroaded. This kid has never hurt anyone in her life. They took her fresh out of boot camp and threw her platoon over there."
Specialist Jeremy C Sivits, 24 from Hyndman, Pennsylvania
Daniel Sivits said his son "was just doing what he was told to do" when he allegedly photographed prisoners in humiliating positions. He said Jeremy was not trained as a military police officer but as a mechanic. Jeremy Sivits claimed he could be seen in a photograph trying to help a prisoner.
Sergeant Javal S Davis, 26 from Mississippi
Reportedly told the inquiry into the alleged torture: "I witnessed prisoners in the MI hold section... being made to do various things that I would question morally... We were told that they had different rules."
Specialist Meghan M Ambuhl, of Maryland, Virginia
Corporal Charles A Graner from Virginia
Was photographed grinning and giving the thumbs-up behind a cluster of perhaps seven naked Iraqis, knees bent, piled clumsily on top of each other in a pyramid.
Brigadier General Janis Karpinski, Army Reserve Commander who oversaw the prison
She protests: "The prison, and that particular cellblock where the events took place, were under the control of the MI [military intelligence] command."
Lynndie England, 21, from Fort Ashby Virginia, has been moved to Fort Bragg, North Carolina
Has been demoted from specialist to private first class. In one photo was pictured giving a thumbs up, cigarette in mouth, pointing to the genitals of an Iraqi who was forced to masturbate.
Seven unnamed soldiers have also been reprimanded.
© 2003 Independent Digital (UK) Ltd