Dubai: A 15-month investigation by BBC Arabic and The Guardian newspaper has uncovered links between the Pentagon and Iraqi torture centres that could implicate US officials in human rights abuses in Iraq for the first time.

The investigation has found the the Pentagon had sent a veteran of the “dirty wars” of Central American to oversee special police commando units that had set up secret detention centres where torture was used to extract information from detainees. The findings were also revealed in a 15 minute documentary.

One of the American figures implemented is Colonel James Steele, who was taked with organising Iraqi paramilitaries in an attempt to quell Sunni insurgency. Membership was drawn from Shiite militias like the Badr brigades, the former military arm of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, which was tied to the clerical Al Hakim family.

A second official implicated in the investigation was Colonel James H Coffman, who worked alongside Steele in detention centres that were set up with millions of dollars of US funding.

US and Iraqi witnesses reveal the depth of the men’s complcity in the detention centres, alleging that they knew about “the most horrible kinds of torture”, such as using electricity, hanging the detainee upside down, pulling out of nails, and “beating them on sensitive parts”.

“We were in a room in the library interviewing Steele and I’m looking around I see blood everywhere,” claimed one witness.

The Iraqi public is believed to have first learned about the torture cases when some victims were parades in front of TV audiences.

The setting up and funding of this paramilitary force helped germinate the civil war that claimed tens of thousands of lives, according to the report.