Elite US soldiers abused prisoners in Iraq, according to allegations in newly released government documents which provide further evidence that the abuse of Iraqi prisoners spread well beyond the notorious Abu Ghraib prison.

The American Civil Liberties Union on Monday released the documents, which the group says reveal that the military is not serious enough about probing allegations of abuse.

“Government investigations into allegations of torture and abuse have been woefully inadequate,” said Anthony Romero, executive director of Aclu, which acquired the documents after filing a freedom-of-information request.

“Some of the investigations have basically whitewashed torture and abuse. The documents tell a damning story of widespread torture and abuse.”

One military investigation found reasonable grounds for suspecting that four special forces members had murdered an Afghan civilian by luring him towards a roadblock, then killing him. The investigation concluded that the team's commander had ordered one soldier to destroy an incriminating photograph. Only one soldier was punished, with a written reprimand.

In another incident, a 73-year old Iraqi woman alleged soldiers sodomised her with a stick and touched her genitals. The woman, captured by Task Force 20, the elite Delta Force unit, also said soldiers set a dog on her and three other female detainees. A military investigation concluded there was insufficient evidence to substantiate or disprove her claims.

The documents also contain statements by contractors who allegedly witnessed numerous incidents of abuse, including sodomy of male and female prisoners, electric shocks and cigarette burns at al-Azimayah palace in Baghdad.

The military says it has aggressively investigated all allegations of abuse. The Pentagon has completed eight reports on prisoner abuse. Three other investigations, including one by Brig Gen Richard Formica into abuses committed by special forces, are pending.

“The army's record of investigating detainee abuse continues to be aggressive and thorough,” an army spokesman said.

But the Aclu says many of the military investigations of alleged abuses were “abandoned because abusive conduct was characterised as acceptable practice”.

The White House denies sanctioning abusive interrogations, saying a few rogue soldiers were responsible for the Abu Ghraib scandal.

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