Iraqi PM Criticises Timing Of Wikileaks Disclosure

Iraq's prime minister has criticised the timing of the release by Wikileaks of almost 400,000 secret US military documents about the conflict there.

(BBC)

Iraq's prime minister has criticised the timing of the release by Wikileaks of almost 400,000 Mr Maliki's office said the documents did not present any proof that Iraqi detainees were tortured secret US military documents about the conflict there.

Nouri Maliki's office accused it of trying to sabotage his bid to form a new government by making allegations he was linked to Shia death squads.

Mr Maliki is struggling to keep his job after inconclusive elections in March.

Wikileaks said the disclosure was aimed at revealing the truth about the war.

In a strongly worded statement, Mr Maliki's office angrily rebutted suggestions that forces under his control acted as death squads.

Allegations of links to death squads - responsible for the worst of Iraq's sectarian carnage from in 2006-2007 - were largely promoted by Arabic TV network al-Jazeera, our correspondent Jim Muir reports from Baghdad.

Mr Maliki's office said Iraqi security forces observed the rule of law and did not act out of sectarian considerations.

The statement dismissed the Wikileaks outpourings as "media games and bubbles motivated by known political goals".

The founder of Wikileaks, Julian Assange, said the records showed there had been "a bloodbath on every corner" and provided evidence of war crimes.

"We hope to correct some of that attack on the truth that occurred before the war, during the war and which has continued on since the war officially concluded," he told a news conference in London.

But the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm Mike Mullen, strongly condemned the disclosure of classified information.

In a posting on Twitter, he called Wikileaks "irresponsible" and said the website puts "lives at risk and gives adversaries valuable information".

'Media games'

The Wikileaks revelations have attracted relatively little interest among Iraqis, our correspondent Jim Muir says, although they triggered an angry response from the office of Prime Minister Maliki.

It said it was suspicious that the documents were published while negotiations over a new government were continuing.

Mr Maliki's office also said the records did not present any proof of detainees being tortured in Iraqi-run facilities during his premiership. Instead, the statement praised him as courageous for taking a tough stance against terrorists. It did not offer any further details.

Earlier, a government spokesman admitted that "violations" had taken place but that these did not reflect official policy and were punished when discovered However, there is no record of any official having been jailed for torture after successive scandals starting in 2005.

The Sunni-backed Iraqiya bloc of the former Prime Minister, Iyad Allawi, said the allegations demonstrated why it was important to have a power-sharing government, and why Mr Maliki should step aside.

"Putting all the security powers in the hands of one person, who is the general commander of the armed forces, have led to these abuses and torture practices in Iraqi prisons," spokeswoman Maysoun al-Damlouji told the Associated Press.

"Maliki wants to have all powers in his hands," she added.

Iraqiya narrowly won the most seats in the general election, but has refused to participate in a government led by Mr Maliki, who has been nominated by the country's main Shia coalition, the National Alliance.

'No further investigation'

The 391,831 US Army Sigacts (Significant Actions) reports published by Wikileaks on Friday describe the apparent torture of Iraqi detainees by members of the Iraqi security forces, and in some cases even summary executions.

One shows US soldiers were given a video apparently showing Iraqi Army (IA) officers executing a prisoner in the northern town of Talafar. Another says officers were suspected of cutting off a detainee's fingers and burning him with acid.

Despite the severity of the allegations, the reports were often sent up the chain of command marked "no further investigation".

US military spokesman Col Dave Lapan told the BBC that it had no plans to reinvestigate the alleged abuses, and that its policy was consistent with the United Nations Convention Against Torture.

He stressed that when the allegations involved the abuse of Iraqis by Iraqis, the role of American soldiers was to "observe and report" what they had seen to their superiors - who would then pass on the evidence to the Iraqi authorities.

Col Lapan said this was "customary international practice" - adding that the field reports published by Wikileaks had been viewed by senior officers at the time, and the "necessary actions" taken.

The Sigacts also reveal many previously unreported instances in which US forces killed civilians at checkpoints and during operations.

In one incident in July 2007, as many as 26 Iraqis were killed by a helicopter gunship, about half of them civilians, according to the log.

The disclosure also appears to show the US military did keep records of civilian deaths, despite earlier denials that any official statistics were available.

The logs showed there were more than 109,000 violent deaths between 2004 and the end of 2009. They included 66,081 civilians, 23,984 people classed as "enemy", 15,196 members of the Iraqi security forces, and 3,771 coalition troops.

Iraq Body Count, which collates civilian deaths using cross-checked media reports and other figures, said that based on an analysis of a sample, it estimated that around 15,000 previously unknown civilian deaths would be identified.

The release of the documents comes as the US military prepares to withdraw all 50,000 remaining troops from Iraq by the end of 2011.