One shows prisoners, naked except for hoods, stacked in a human pyramid. Other photos show naked prisoners being forced to mime sex acts.
The pictures, obtained by CBS News – which says they were taken by guards – have led to the suspension of the six US soldiers alleged to have directly carried out the acts.
Abdel Bari Atwan, editor of London-based Arabic newspaper Al-Quds Al-Arabi, said the photographs would provoke fury in the Muslim world. “People will be extremely angry,” he said. “Sexual abuse is the worst thing in that part of the world. It is shocking to all Muslims.”
He added: “America has lost the battle completely. Iraqis expected the Americans and British to bring democracy and human rights and not the same thing as under Saddam. We have replaced a brutal dictator with a brutal super-power.”
Tony Blair was described today as “appalled” by the pictures. Downing Street appealed to the public and to Iraqis not to assume the “few” responsible represented the majority of coalition troops.
“It is regrettable to say the least,” said Mr Blair’s spokesman. “We fully accept these things should not happen.” He stressed that the abuse was a clear breach of coalition rules – in contrast to the regime of Saddam Hussein which used torture as a matter of routine.
Brigadier General Janis Karpinski, in charge of prisons in Iraq, has been suspended. Pentagon chiefs are ready to bring charges against her and six military police officers under her command. General Karpinski could face a full court martial and be relieved of her command.
American TV showed another Iraqi captive forced to stand on a box with wires clipped to his hands. He had been told he would be electrocuted if he fell off. Other photographs held by the US army are said to show a prisoner with wires attached to his genitals and a dog attacking an Iraqi captive.
The Iraqis were all being held last year at the Abu Ghriab prison, a centre for torture and executions under Saddam now used by the US to hold several thousand prisoners suspected of attacks on its troops.
An American soldier is said to have alerted superior officers to the abuses in January, saying: “There are some things going on that I can’t live with.”
Staff Sgt Chip Frederick claimed civilian observers, FBI and CIA agents and senior officers turned a blind eye or even encouraged some of the abuses. Several of the accused soldiers claimed they had been told to “soften up” the prisoners for interrogation. The guards are alleged to have carried out assaults, indecent acts and maltreatment against 20 prisoners between November and December last year.
A US army investigation found General Karpinski’s “lack of leadership and clear standards” led to the abuses. It blamed the poor training of the reserve unit alleged to have been largely responsible-Senior US officials also say they are appalled but insist it was an isolated incident.
Amnesty International UK director Kate Allen said she had seen “numerous” statements from Iraqis who had claimed to have been tortured by coalition soldiers.