The images have become so familiar that the words "Abu Ghraib" conjure visions of moments harrowing, disturbing and violent -- but lacking context.

And they have left many questions unanswered. How did the man with the wires get there? Why is the soldier holding the man by a leash? Are the pictures staged?

Now, with sworn statements obtained by The Washington Post, in which both the soldiers charged in the abuse and the alleged victims have told investigators their views of what happened, the stories behind the photographs have begun to take shape.

Pfc. Lynndie England had a chance to explain why she was standing in a prison hallway, holding a naked man on a leash. She said another widely reproduced photograph of a fellow soldier threatening to hit a detainee was a ruse. He never did follow through, she said. Spec. Jeremy Sivits, however, described how soldiers did in fact punch detainees, even knocking one unconscious.

There are also the detainees' versions. One prisoner, who tells investigators he was among those forced to lie in a pile of naked men -- a formation captured in one of the first Abu Ghraib photos to be released -- said the guards "treated us like animals, not humans. . . . No one showed us mercy."

Then, finally, there is a voice for the man seen worldwide with arms outstretched and wires attached to his body.

In sparse, pained language, he described standing there wearing nothing but a hood and a blanket as a soldier put "electrical wires on my fingers and toes and on my penis."

He heard someone say, "Which switch is on for electricity?"

Then, through his hood, he saw a flash of light and knew someone just took his picture.

A soldier, Spec. Sabrina Harman, gave investigators another perspective. The man attached to the wires was nicknamed Gilligan, she said. "He was just standing on the box with the sandbag over his head for about an hour. I put the wires on his hands. I do not recall how. I was joking with him and told him if he fell off he would get electrocuted."

The soldiers displayed a broad range of emotions while discussing the abuse captured in the photographs. At times, they delighted in what was being done to the prisoners, likening them to pranks. Other soldiers participated reluctantly, they said, posing in the pictures at the direction of others.

Sgt. Javal S. Davis said he questioned the morality of what was happening. Others said they were surprised at the sudden bursts of violence that were unleashed on the prisoners. They were contrite about not doing more to stop it.

The prisoners expressed an amalgam of humiliation and horror as they described being photographed as part of a human pyramid, being forced to masturbate or standing in uncomfortable positions handcuffed to a cell door.

One told of being stripped and forced into the pile. He said he was handcuffed to a bed, and that a soldier punched "us in the stomach and hit us on the head and face. . . . When I see him, I'm scared to death."

But he seemed to know that, coming from a prisoner, his words would be viewed with skepticism. And so he told the investigators another thing, something that would confirm everything he had described: The soldier who abused him took pictures, he said, and they are out there somewhere.

Find the pictures, he said, "and you will find everything I said was true."

This hooded Iraqi detainee was hooked up to wires at the Abu Ghraib prison. The stories behind this and other photos have been told to investigators.