May 25, 3:56 PM EDT

Iraqi forces release videos it says counters claims of abuse


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BAGHDAD (AP) -- An Iraqi Interior Ministry unit accused of abusing civilian detainees while fighting the Islamic State group in Mosul has released videos it says refutes the allegations reported by Germany's Der Spiegel magazine.

The spokesman for the unit said Thursday that the videos released late Wednesday - in which an Emergency Response Division officer interviews a man and a family allegedly tortured - show the allegations reported by an Iraqi photographer for the magazine are "incorrect." The Spiegel report was published last weekend.

"A committee from the interior ministry will also visit the families and the people mentioned in the report in order to ensure that they were not subjected to any violations," Abdul Amir al-Muhammadawi, spokesman for the Emergency Response Division, told The Associated Press.

The Spiegel photographer reportedly embedded with the unit for months said he witnessed killing, torture and rape of IS suspects.

The Interior Ministry announced the launch of an investigation into the alleged human rights violations Tuesday. Following the announcement, ministry spokesman Brig. Gen Saad Maan did not give a time frame for the investigation but said "legal measures will be applied ... against wrongdoers."

Iraq's Emergency Response Division - an elite unit that answers to the Interior Ministry - has played a key role in the Mosul operation with close backing from the U.S.-led coalition.

U.S.-backed Iraqi forces are closing in on the last IS held neighborhoods in western Mosul nearly three years after the extremists overran almost a third of Iraq in 2014.

The operation to retake Mosul was launched in October and the city's east was declared "fully liberated" in January.

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