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In Iraq, a Subdued Response to New Detainee Abuse Photos

Times Staff Writer

Newly released photos of detainee abuse by American soldiers and intelligence officers at the Abu Ghraib prison sparked condemnation by U.S. and Iraqi officials Thursday, but little of the populist outrage and street violence that followed release of the first such images nearly two years ago.

The pictures, which were posted by the online magazine Salon, depict naked Iraqi detainees handcuffed to bed frames and prison bars. Other images show U.S. soldiers posing near prisoners who are wearing nothing but hoods over their heads. One picture shows a detainee sodomizing himself with an object. Two photos show the bloody floor of a detention cell.

The new images come only a few days after a video apparently showing British troops beating Iraqi youths in 2004 was publicized.

The new images of Abu Ghraib were aired around the clock Thursday on Arab television channels such as Al Arabiya and Al Jazeera and were front-page stories in several Arabic-language newspapers here.

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But the relatively subdued response in Iraq and the region seemed to allay concerns that the release of the photos, particularly in the wake of the controversy over publication of caricatures of the prophet Muhammad, would cause more violence.

U.S. military spokesman Army Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch said Thursday that the photos were not the basis for a recent spike in violence.

Moulk Abed Hazzawi, a 42-year-old Baghdad lawyer, said the new images were a dangerous diversion from Iraq’s present-day problems.

“This is just another injustice against the Iraqi people,” she said. “We heard about these things two years ago, and we don’t want to be reminded about this now. We are busy trying to form a new government. Whoever is showing these pictures is trying to provoke more violence.”

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Other residents said the pictures renewed old feelings of humiliation and resentment toward U.S. forces. “They make us forget our personal problems and all the big problems Iraqis are suffering and focus on these abuses because they dishonor us so badly,” said Jawad Kraidi, 40, a south Baghdad resident.

Mohammed Askari, a Defense Ministry spokesman, cast the pictures as deviations that have since been corrected.

“These are violations against proper procedure that were rejected by the American and Iraqi government,” he said. “These were spontaneous actions committed without any official involvement, and we trust there was a fair investigation into these matters.”

Interim Prime Minister Ibrahim Jafari’s office issued a statement pledging that such prison abuses would never recur and welcoming “the firm condemnation announced by the U.S. State Department and other American officials.”

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U.S. officials denounced the activities shown in the latest Abu Ghraib photos but said they were the same instances of misconduct that had already been investigated and prosecuted.

“I’m told that these photographs that are coming out now are nothing more than the same things that came out before ... the same type of behavior,” said Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, testifying Thursday before the House Appropriations subcommittee on defense. “That behavior’s been punished.”

In a congressional appearance last week, Rumsfeld said that 87 soldiers had received criminal punishment through court-martial proceedings for abusing detainees, and that an additional 91 had been given administrative penalties.

Nine low-level enlistees have been convicted or have pleaded guilty to charges of detainee abuse in connection with the earlier highly publicized photos from Abu Ghraib.

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Critics have complained that nearly all of those held criminally liable have been low-level personnel. An Army inspector general’s report last year cleared all high-ranking commanders -- including Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the former U.S. ground commander in Iraq -- of wrongdoing.

The White House called abuses at Abu Ghraib “appalling” but said Thursday that the military had acted swiftly to hold soldiers accountable for improper conduct.

In Iraq, the U.S. military said Thursday that there had been 67 insurgent attacks in the country on Wednesday and 540 in the course of a week, a 17% increase.

In the capital, insurgents shot and killed three municipal workers. In a separate incident, a Defense Ministry official, Brig. Gen. Kaleel Yass, was assassinated. In the northern oil hub of Kirkuk, gunmen killed a police captain and his bodyguard.

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Times staff writers Megan K. Stack in Cairo and Raheem Salman, Caesar Ahmed and Shamil Aziz in Baghdad, as well as special correspondents in Baghdad and Kirkuk and The Times’ Washington Bureau, contributed to this report.


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