President Barack Obama has reversed a decision to release photos showing abuse of "war on terror" detainees, saying he feared it would cause a backlash against US troops abroad.
The about-face on Wednesday came after the administration announced last month it had agreed to release hundreds of photos from US-run prisons in Iraq and elsewhere in response to a long-running lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
The Pentagon said US military commanders had sternly warned that the photos could be used as a recruiting tool by extremists and jeopardise the safety of US troops.
Federal courts have ruled against the government in a series of decisions, but Obama had instructed administration lawyers to try a new argument that the photos could put troops in Iraq and Afghanistan at risk, the White House said.
According to the Justice Department, the decision meant the government would renew its legal fight against the release of the images, and would consider appealing the case to the Supreme Court.
Obama said issuing the photos, which were used as evidence in criminal investigations of US soldiers accused of abusing detainees during George W Bush's administration, would "inflame anti-American opinion and put our troops in greater danger" without shedding any new light on past abuses.