BAGHDAD, Iraq – The U.S. military has reprimanded seven soldiers in the alleged abuse of inmates at Baghdad's notorious Abu Ghraib (search) prison, the first known punishments in the case, an official said Monday. Two of the soldiers were relieved of their duties.
The American officer who oversaw the prison said many more troops might have been involved.
The soldiers were reprimanded on the orders of Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez (search), commander of U.S. forces in Iraq. Six of them -- officers and noncommissioned officers -- received the most severe administrative reprimand in the U.S. military, a military official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. A seventh soldier received a more lenient admonishment.
In Washington, Pentagon spokesman Larry Di Rita spoke of six soldiers who were reprimanded, including two who were "released for cause," meaning they were relieved of their duties and reassigned "with prejudice." He also said the six who received letters of reprimand were from a military police unit. He did not mention the seventh soldier's case.
"There may well be additional decisions" about disciplinary action against others as a result of the investigation," Di Rita added.
The official said he believed the seven officers would not face further action or court martial, but the reprimands could mean the end of their careers.
Another six U.S. servicemembers -- all military police -- also may face criminal charges.
President Bush called Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld (search) before a campaign trip Monday and urged him to make sure the U.S. soldiers are punished, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said.
"The president wanted to make sure appropriate action is being taken against those responsible for these shameful and appalling acts," he said.
The U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council (search) joined the chorus of international criticism of the alleged abuse, terming it a violation of international law and the Geneva Conventions. The council demanded that U.S. authorities allow Iraqi judges to take part in the interrogation of prisoners and open the detention centers to inspection by Iraqi officials.
At a news conference in Baghdad, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zibari condemned the alleged abuse and called for an independent inquiry.
Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, who oversaw the prison, said that she did not know about the prisoner abuse while it was happening.
"They were despicable acts," Karpinski said Monday on ABC's "Good Morning America." "Had I known anything about it, I certainly would have reacted very quickly."
Karpinski, commander of the 800th Military Police Brigade, said one photograph from the prison appeared to show more Americans involved in the alleged abuse than the six MPs who have been charged.
"One photograph showed -- it didn't show faces completely, but the photograph showed 32 boots," Karpinski told ABC. "I'm saying other people than the military police."
It wasn't clear if that would include the seven soldiers reprimanded.
Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, chief U.S. military spokesman in Iraq, said on ABC that he isn't sure Army military intelligence "had anything to do with the individual acts of criminal behavior" as Karpinski and others have alleged. Kimmitt said, however, that the investigation is reviewing "concerns expressed about the military intelligence."
Last week, CBS' "60 Minutes II" broadcast images allegedly showing Iraqis stripped naked, hooded and being tormented by their U.S. captors.
An internal U.S. Army report found that Iraqi detainees were subjected to "sadistic, blatant and wanton criminal abuses," according to The New Yorker magazine.
A British newspaper also published photos purporting to show members of a British Army regiment abusing prisoners, but a former commander of the unit said Monday that the photos had "too many inconsistencies" to be genuine.
The Daily Mirror newspaper stood by the photos, which allegedly show a hooded Iraqi being pushed, threatened and urinated on by a soldier from the Queen's Lancashire Regiment.
Col. David Black, who led the regiment in the 1980s, told British Broadcasting Corp. television that equipment and a truck pictured in the photos had not been used by the regiment in Iraq. He said he did not believe the photos had been taken in the Middle Eastern country.
"The evidence we have seen so far looking at the photographs, there are too many inconsistencies," he said.
British military police are conducting an investigation in Iraq, in Britain and in Cyprus, where the regiment is based, the Ministry of Defense said Monday.
The Daily Mirror said the photos were supplied by two serving members of the regiment. On Monday it quoted one of the unidentified soldiers as saying he had seen "literally hundreds" of similar pictures.
Prime Minister Tony Blair has condemned the alleged abuse by British soldiers, but said the vast majority of troops "are doing a fantastic job for the Iraqi people."
The Arab language television station Al-Jazeera broadcast an interview Monday with two Iraqis who said they were abused at Abu Ghraib. One, identified only as Hashim, said guards "covered our heads with bags, they beat us with the butts of their guns without any fear that we would die of the blows."
"They made us take our clothes off and they pushed us against the wall," he said. "They did things to us that I am unable to talk about."
The other Iraqi, Haider Sabar, said an American intelligence officer, along with an Iraqi and an Egyptian translator, showed him "immoral photos of the acts that took place" -- apparently to frighten him.