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US forces confessions with lions

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Prisoners 'faced lion torture'
By Our Foreign Staff
(Filed: 16/11/2005)

The American military is examining allegations by two former Iraqi detainees that they were thrust into a cage of lions in a Baghdad palace in 2003 as part of a terrifying interrogation.

Thahe Mohammed Sabbar, 37, and Sherzad Kamal Khalid, 35, said in Washington yesterday that on the day of their arrest in July 2003 they were covered with plastic hoods and repeatedly struck by soldiers before being hauled in front of a lion cage.

Mr Sabbar said: "One of the soldiers would open the door and two soldiers would push me in. The lions came running toward me and they pulled me out and shut the door." Mr Khalid claimed that the soldiers kept asking him where Saddam Hussein was. "They threatened that if I did not confess they would put me in the cage," he said.

"I laughed, I thought they were kidding me. They asked where are the weapons of mass destruction."

When he laughed, he said, he was only beaten more. They pushed him into the cage three times.

The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit on behalf of the men and others against senior American officials, including Donald Rumsfeld, the defence secretary.

It detailed alleged sexual abuse, mock executions, water and food deprivation, electric shocks and other forms of torture and maltreatment. It did not mention lions.

Saddam's eldest son, Uday, kept lions at the presidential palace, which was taken over by American forces.

Iraq's prime minister, Ibrahim Jaafari, yesterday ordered an investigation into the discovery of 173 detainees found at a clandestine underground prison run by the interior ministry. American troops rescued the prisoners in a raid on Sunday night. Mr Jaafari said that some of the prisoners, most of whom were Sunni Arabs, had been tortured or starved.

Copyright of Telegraph Group Limited 2005.

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