Abu Ghraib prisoners released

Six buses laden with Iraqis drove away from the gates of the prison early on Friday as part of the slated release of 472 prisoners.

The buses left the jail, west of Baghdad, to the cries of female relatives of prisoners who flock to the prison every day.

Some 293 prisoners were freed the previous Friday from the jail, which has been the centre of an abuse scandal.

The releases came as fresh allegations of prisoner abuse by US soldiers emerged, with claims that an Iraqi boy was raped in custody and other inmates threatened with death and made to retrieve food from toilets.

The Washington Post has published a story quoting statements to US investigators from former inmates of Abu Ghraib.

The newspaper also published more shocking photographs, appearing to show soldiers beating inmates, threatening them with dogs and handcuffing them to bars.

The newspaper quoted evidence taken from 13 former detainees at the prison in mid-January, when the scandal was under investigation but before it became public.

They said they were beaten and humiliated during the holy month of Ramadan.

Some said they were sexually humiliated and assaulted, threatened with rape, and forced to perform sex acts in front of female soldiers.

One former detainee, Ameen Saeed Al-Sheik, told investigators: “They stripped me naked. One of them told me he would rape me. He drew a picture of a woman to my back and makes me stand in shameful position holding my buttocks.”

Another, Kasim Mehaddi Hilas, said he was hooded and forced to wear rose-coloured women’s underwear.

He also said he saw an army translator having sex with a boy, aged between 15 and 18, and saw another prisoner being sexually abused with a phosphoric light.

Seven soldiers have been charged with abusing soldiers so far. One, Specialist Jeremy Sivits, has pleaded guilty and been sentenced to a year in prison.

While the Bush administration has suggested that it was the work of a group of rogue soldiers, most of the defendants have claimed they were acting under orders to “soften up” detainees for interrogation.

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