March 10, 2006

Iraq won’t use Abu Ghraib after US quits jail

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraqi authorities have no intention of
continuing to use Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison after the U.S.
military ends operations there in the next few months, Iraq's
justice minister said on Friday.

"There will be no detainees in Abu Ghraib," Abd al-Hussein
Shandel told Reuters, rejecting suggestions by U.S. officials
that Iraq might continue to use it as a jail.

"It will just be used as a storage facility for the Justice
Ministry," he said.

In a surprise announcement, the U.S. military said on
Thursday it planned to shut down the prison in the next two to
three months after transferring remaining detainees elsewhere.

Shandel said the prison, a torture center under Saddam
Hussein that became internationally notorious for the abuse of
prisoners by American soldiers, was too difficult to secure.

Situated in the Baghdad suburb of the same name, a bastion
of Sunni Arab insurgents, the compound has come under regular
attack, including a major assault that tried to free inmates.

The U.S. military says the 4,500 inmates being held by U.S.
troops at Abu Ghraib on suspicion of insurgent activity would
be transferred elsewhere once a new site at the nearby airport
was completed.

The sprawling prison compound had until recently also held
2,400 criminals under the control of the Justice Ministry. But
Shandel said these had already been transferred to other sites.

The buildings at Abu Ghraib, which include the original
1960s, British-built jail and surrounding tented camp that has
sprung up under U.S. control, would no longer be used as a
prison because they were difficult to secure, he said.