US bolsters Iraq prison security

BBC World News

The US has announced it is sending 700 paratroops to Iraq to boost security at its prisons there.

An infantry battalion from the 82nd Airborne Division will be deployed over the next two months.

It is not clear if they will replace troops ending their tour of duty or increase total US troop numbers.

As the insurgency continues, there are now nearly 11,000 prisoners in major US-run detention centres – twice as many as last September.

US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said last month he would like to give Iraq’s government full responsibility for detainees as soon as was feasible.

But the US has offered no timetable for such a handover.

Second tour of duty

A Pentagon spokesman, Air Force Lt-Col John Skinner, said detention operations in Iraq were expanding.


PRISON CAPACITY Abu Ghraib – expanded to house 4,000 Camp Bucca – 6,000, to take an extra 1,400 Camp Cropper – 100, to take 2,000 more Fort Suse – to take 2,000

The battalion, from the division’s 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, will be deployed to Iraq over the next two months, Pentagon officials said on Wednesday.

It has already served once in Iraq, from September 2003 to April 2004, and before that in Afghanistan.

The troops are being prepared to perform duties such as providing security around prison compounds and for transportation of prisoners.

About 10,800 prisoners are currently held at the main US-run prisons at Abu Ghraib, Camp Bucca and Camp Cropper.

A fourth facility at Fort Suse in the Kurdish city of Suleimaniya, 330km (205 miles) north of Baghdad, is expected to be completed next month. The three older prisons are being expanded.

The $50m (£28m) construction programme, announced in June, will eventually allow the US to hold 16,000 prisoners.

The US-run camps are for “security detainees” held by coalition forces as suspected insurgents. Iraqi prisoners not connected to the insurgency are held in normal Iraqi jails.

Allegations of abuse by US soldiers at Abu Ghraib emerged in April 2004 and dealt a serious blow to the coalition’s efforts to win over Iraqi hearts and minds.

The scandal drew international condemnation and several soldiers have since been convicted of offences relating to the abuses.

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