DUBAI (AFP) – Al-Jazeera on Friday released what it called “startling new information” from US documents obtained by WikiLeaks, alleging state-sanctioned Iraqi torture and the killing of hundreds of civilians at US military checkpoints.
It said that the major findings included a US military cover-up of Iraqi state-sanctioned torture and “hundreds” of civilians deaths at manned American checkpoints after the US-led invasion of 2003 that ousted Saddam Hussein.
The Qatar-based satellite broadcaster also said the leaked papers, dating from January 1, 2004 to December 31, 2009, show the United States kept a death count throughout the war, despite US denials.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton condemned “in the most clear terms” the leaks of any documents putting Americans at risk.
Speaking to reporters in Washington, she declined to discuss the specifics of the WikiLeaks disclosures.
“But I do have a strong opinion that we should condemn in the most clear terms the disclosure of any information by individuals and or organisations which puts the lives of United States and its partners’ servicemembers and civilians at risk,” she said.
Al-Jazeera’s English channel told AFP in a statement that from 2100 GMT on Friday it would broadcast a series of programmes “that reveal startling new information about the operations of US forces during the Iraq War.”
It said the programmes are based on files from WikiLeaks “who gained access to over 400,000 documents regarding the War in Iraq making it the largest document leak in US history.
“The secret materials are more than four times larger then Wikileak?s Afghanistan files,” the broadcaster said in a statement issued in English.
WikiLeaks infuriated the Pentagon in July by publishing 77,000 classified US military documents on the war in Afghanistan.
“Although one of the stated aims of the Iraq War was to close down Saddam Hussein?s torture chambers, the Wikileaks documents show many cases of torture and abuse of Iraqi prisoners by Iraqi police and soldiers,” Al-Jazeera said.
“In addition, the documents reveal the US knew about the state sanctioned torture but ordered its troops not to intervene.”
It said “hundreds of civilians” were killed at US manned checkpoints.
“According to the documents, many Iraqi civilians were killed during the war at checkpoints in contrast to the official US position,” the channel said.
Al-Jazeera said the leaked documents also provide new information on the killing of civilians by US private security firm Blackwater.
“The secret US files reveal new cases of Blackwater (a company now known as XE) opening fire on civilians. No charges were ever brought,” the statement said.
The broadcaster’s Arabic-language service reported that the civilian death toll in Iraq was “much higher than officially announced.”
It reported that at least 109,000 people were killed, 63 percent of them civilians, between the invasion in March 2003 and the end of 2009.
“The confidential documents obtained by WikiLeaks reveal that the American forces had compiled a register of dead and wounded Iraqis, even if they deny it publicly,” it said.
“They show 285,000 victims of the conflict, of whom at least 109,000 were killed” between 2003 and the end of last year, it said, adding that 63 percent of the dead were civilians.
Al-Jazeera said that included in the papers obtained by WikiLeaks was information on what the station’s statement in English called the “secret involvement” of Iran in financing Shiite militias in Iraq.
“The files detail Iran?s secret war in Iraq and discuss Iran?s Revolutionary Guard acting as an alleged supplier of arms to Shia insurgents,” it said.
It said the papers also included US Army reports about Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki “and allegations of his association with death squads” in Iraq.
The Pentagon warned on Friday that releasing secret military documents could endanger US troops and Iraqi civilians.
“By disclosing such sensitive information, WikiLeaks continues to put at risk the lives of our troops, their coalition partners and those Iraqis and Afghans working with us,” Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said.
He said the documents were “essentially snapshots of events, both tragic and mundane, and do not tell the whole story.”
Amnesty International urged Washington to investigate how much US officials knew about ill-treatment of detainees in Iraq.
“We have not yet had an opportunity to study the leaked files in detail but they add to our concern that the US authorities committed a serious breach of international law when they summarily handed over thousands of detainees to Iraqi security forces who, they knew, were continuing to torture and abuse detainees on a truly shocking scale,” Malcolm Smart, Amnesty?s Middle East director, said in a statement.