The US military said on Thursday that five Iraqis were wounded in addition to the two killed when a fight broke out among hundreds of detainees at Abu Ghraib prison on Wednesday.

 

The statement issued by the US Central Command headquarters in Tampa, Florida, did not make clear how the prisoners died, but said that "lethal force" was used by US troops to bring the early morning disturbance under control.

 

"The altercation among the detainees broke out at about 5:45am, when guards observed a large group of security detainees attacking another detainee, using rocks and tent poles," the Central Command release said.

 

"Guards attempted to intervene with verbal warnings, but the situation continued to escalate and the number of detainees involved swelled to over 200, resulting in the use of non-letahal rounds to disperse the group.

 

"When this failed to quell the situation and it was determined that a detainee's life was still at risk, lethal force was authorised, and the situation was brought under control," the US Central Command statement said.

 

Abuse scandal report

 

Earlier on Thursday, reporting on the US army's inquiry into Abu Ghraib abuse, The New York Times and USA Today quoted Pentagon officials as saying that Major General Fay was expected to blame at least two dozen military intelligence personnel, civilian contractors and CIA officers for wrongdoing. 

 

US soldiers used 'lethal force' to
restore order in the notorious jail

Previously, seven rank-and-file members of the 372nd Military Police Company were charged in the prisoner-abuse scandal.

 

The scandal surfaced in January after a military policeman turned over shocking photographs and videos of the mistreatment to investigators.

 

But the sources told the Times that Fay's report found no evidence of direct culpability above the colonel who commanded the military intelligence unit at the prison.

 

'Failed leadership'

 

It does not find that top military commanders condoned the abuses, but it does fault them for failure of leadership.

 

"Commanders should have exercised more oversight"

Pentagon official quoted by
New York Times

"Commanders should have exercised more oversight," said one Pentagon official. "The emphasis on detainee operations was just not there."

  

The sources did not say whether the report found misconduct among civilian contractors working as interrogators at Abu Ghraib, but it does cite the role of US Justice Department officials and recommends further investigation of their actions, a Pentagon official told USA Today.

  

Fay's investigation is one of seven that are still under way or have been conducted into the abuse and murder of prisoners under US occupation in Iraq and in Afghanistan.

 

Reuters quoted US defence officials on Thursday as saying that the investigation report, expected to be sent to Congress next week, recommends discipline against military intelligence troops ranging from administrative reduction in rank and loss of pay to further investigation that could lead to military trials.

 

"I think it will find that military police weren't the only ones doing anything wrong," said one defence official of the Abu Ghraib abuse and sexual humiliation of Iraqi prisoners, which sparked fury in the Arab world and international condemnation.