"The Iraqi government condemns the torture practices revealed through the recent pictures that show Iraqi prisoners being tortured and it [the government] takes responsibility to prevent such acts," a statement issued by Ibrahim al-Jaafari's office said on Thursday.

The statement said the Iraqi government welcomed the US denunciation of the pictures, which were first aired on Wednesday on an Australian TV station but date back to 2003, when earlier images were released of US forces abusing detainees.

An unidentified official was quoted in the statement saying the latest images were among others that had led to the prosecution of several people involved.

Nine American soldiers - all low-ranking reservists - were convicted in the abuse and sentenced to terms ranging from discharge from the US army to 10 years imprisonment.

Red Cross condemnation
 
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), meanwhile, said the latest abuse images showed clear violations of international humanitarian law.
  
Dorothea Krimitsas, an ICRC spokeswoman, said: "We are shocked and dismayed at the mistreatment and abuse displayed in these images.

"We are shocked and dismayed at the mistreatment and abuse displayed in these images"

Dorothea Krimitsas,
ICRC spokeswoman

"The type of treatment in these images - video or photos - very clearly violates the rules of international humanitarian law which are designed to protect people detained in the context of armed conflict."
   
The latest photographs and video images show prisoners, some bleeding or hooded, bound to beds and doors, sometimes with a smiling American guard beside them.
   
They include two naked men handcuffed together, a pile of five naked detainees photographed from the rear, and a dog straining at a leash close to the face of a crouching man wearing an orange jumpsuit.

Death squads investigation

Meanwhile, Iraq's Interior Ministry, headed by a Shia politician, announced an investigation on Thursday into claims of death squads in its ranks after US military officials indicated there was evidence to support the allegation.

The news came as police found the bodies of a dozen men -bound and shot in the head execution-style - in Baghdad on Thursday, bringing to at least 30 the number of apparent victims of sectarian reprisal killings discovered in the capital in the last four days.

Iraqi security officials said the Interior Ministry probe would focus on a single incident involving 22 Iraqi policemen who US authorities said were detained last month before they were able to kill a Sunni Arab man north of Baghdad.

At least 25 other people were killed in violence across Iraq, on Thursday, including three tribal sheikhs slain in a drive-by shooting north of the capital. Also, three supporters of anti-US cleric Muqtada al-Sadr died in a Baghdad mortar barrage.