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Rights Groups Condemn Alleged Abuse

Muslim and human rights groups on Sunday condemned the alleged abuse of Iraqi prisoners by U.S. and British forces as Amnesty International (search) said it had evidence of a pattern of torture.  

The London-based human rights group said it had received "scores" of reports of ill treatment of detainees by British and American troops.

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw (search) promised a thorough investigation into images, published Saturday in a tabloid newspaper, allegedly showing a hooded Iraqi being abused by British soldiers. As some commentators raised doubts about the pictures' authenticity, the Daily Mirror said it stood by its report and promised more revelations.

The British claims surfaced after similar accusations against U.S. forces.

The photo published Saturday on the Daily Mirror's front page showed a British soldier apparently urinating on a hooded prisoner. The newspaper said it had been given the pictures by serving soldiers from the Queen's Lancashire Regiment (search).

Daily Mirror editor Piers Morgan said Sunday that the newspaper planned to publish more details of alleged abuse by "a small rogue element of soldiers who committed totally unacceptable acts against Iraqi civilians." The newspaper also said it had carried out "extensive checks" to establish the authenticity of the pictures.

The British Broadcasting Corp. quoted unidentified sources close to the regiment as saying the gun and hat of the soldier in the Daily Mirror pictures appeared to be the wrong type, a truck was a model not used in Iraq and the photos looked tidy and staged.

Nicholas Soames, defense spokesman for the opposition Conservative Party (search), questioned the newspaper's decision to publish the photos, "where there is clearly a question mark over their veracity."

Last week, CBS broadcast images allegedly showing Iraqis stripped naked, hooded and being tormented by their U.S. captors. Six U.S. soldiers face courts-martial over the abuse allegations.

"We've been documenting allegations of torture for a year now," Amnesty International spokeswoman Nicole Choueiry said. "We have said there are patterns of torture."

The abuse allegedly included "prolonged sleep deprivation, beatings, prolonged restraint in painful positions, sometimes combined with exposure to loud music, prolonged hooding and exposure to bright lights," according to Amnesty.

Dan Senor, a spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition, denounced the abuse of prisoners and promised action against it.

"I think it offends the sensibility of all Americans, it offends the sensibility of the overwhelming majority of men and women in uniform over in Iraq, it offends the sensibility of most Iraqis," Senor said Sunday in a televised interview.

"Careers will be ended and criminal charges are going to be leveled," he added.

The U.S. military's top officer on Sunday denied any widespread pattern of abuse and said the actions of "just a handful" of U.S. troops had unfairly tainted all American forces."

"We review all the interrogation methods. Torture is not one of the methods that we're allowed to use and that we use," Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair condemned the alleged abuse by British soldiers but said the vast majority of troops "are doing a fantastic job for the Iraqi people."

The images, beamed around the world on television and reprinted in newspapers, have sparked outrage across the Muslim world.

"Our revulsion at the sadistic and shameful nature of the treatment given to the prisoners is shared by people across the globe," Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokesman Masood Khan said.

Nasharuddin Isa, secretary general of Malaysia's largest opposition party, the fundamentalist Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party, said the "despicable acts prove the double standards of America, a country that always preaches about human rights to the rest of the world."

"The U.S. and British troops must leave Iraq immediately," Nasharuddin told The Associated Press.

Muslim groups in Indonesia and Pakistan echoed calls for coalition troops to leave.

"The morals of coalition occupation forces are despicable," said Dien Syamsuddin, secretary general of the Indonesian Ulema's Council, a group of influential clerics.

Afghan Foreign Ministry spokesman Omar Samad also warned that any sign of widespread mistreatment in Iraq could set back U.S. efforts to win over skeptical Afghans.