Attack on Baghdad Jail Kills At Least 22 Prisoners
All of those killed or injured in the mortar attack on the Abu Ghraib prison, located just west of Baghdad, were detained by coalition forces, Col. Jill Morgenthaler told the Associated Press.
Earlier Tuesday, Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt said the coalition had not yet determined whether those killed and injured had been held as suspects for involvement in anti-coalition activities or the remnants of Saddam Hussein’s toppled Baathist regime.
Twenty-five of the prisoners were flown by helicopter for emergency medical treatment, Morgenthaler said. There were no reports that any of the casualties were prominent members of Saddam’s regime.
“This isn’t the first time that we have seen this kind of attack. We don’t know if they are trying to inspire an uprising or a prison break,” Kimmitt told Associated Press Radio.
To the west of Baghdad, in the city of Fallujah, Iraqi security forces and civilians who fled the city amid fierce street fighting between Marines and insurgents began to return Tuesday. Their return represented a crucial test of a deal reached Monday between U. S. officials and Fallujah civic leaders in an attempt to ward off a full-fledge assault by U.S. forces on the city.
By Tuesday afternoon, up to 200 members of the Iraqi security forces had returned to their jobs in Fallujah, as dozens more police lined up at a Marine checkpoint to enter the city.
Iraqi families also lined up, hoping to return to their homes. As part of a deal announced Monday, the military agreed to permit 50 families a day back into the city, though Marines had to turn away at least 150 people and told them to return Wednesday.
About a third of the city’s 200,000 people fled in the two-week siege that killed at least 600 Iraqis, according to hospital officials.
A U.S. military-run radio station urged Fallujah residents to turn in heavy weapons — including machine guns, grenade launchers and missiles — to Iraqi security forces or the mayor’s office.
Iraqi policeman Maj. Khamis Suleyman said he expects Iraqi security forces to begin searching houses for weapons.
But it remains to be seen whether anti-occupation fighters would obey the call to surrender their arsenals. U.S. commanders have warned Marines might launch an all-out assault to take the city if the insurgents do not voluntarily disarm.
Also on Tuesday, Kimmitt confirmed that U.S. soldiers had shot to death two Iraqi staffers of the U.S.-funded Al-Iraqiya television station Monday in central Iraq. Al-Iraqiya correspondent Asaad Kadhim and driver Hussein Saleh were killed and cameraman Jassem Kamel was wounded while driving near the city of Samarra, the TV station said.
Kamel told the AP that he and Kadhim had finished interviewing Iraqi police at a checkpoint and members of the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps when their vehicle came under fire by U.S. troops and Kurdish gunmen stationed at a nearby military base.
Kimmitt said coalition forces fired warning shots three times toward the car after it was observed filming a checkpoint and coalition base, then driving toward the base. He noted that five signs were prominently posted in both areas banning filming — a measure to prevent insurgent surveillance — and stopping near the base.
“The vehicle, apparently disregarding the warning shots, drove toward the soldiers and their base,” Kimmitt said.
All three staffers of Al-Iraqiya, a Pentagon-funded station that broadcasts from coalition headquarters, were carrying appropriate press credentials, Kimmitt said.
Coalition forces were investigating the matter, Kimmitt added.
“We just don’t have enough information at this point to either assess blame, innocence or fault,” Kimmitt said.
Their deaths brought to 26 the number of journalists and other staffers of news organizations killed in Iraq over the past year, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.
Meanwhile, U.S. and coalition military leaders were working on how to fill the gap left by the abrupt decisions by Spain and Honduras to withdraw their total of 1,670 troops from Iraq.
Kimmitt said Tuesday officials had been discussing how to replace the troops since Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero won parliamentary elections in mid-March — days after the terrorist bombings of Madrid commuter trains — on a pledge to pull Spanish troops from Iraq. Spain says its 1,300 troops will be pulled out within six weeks.
In a telephone call Monday, President Bush told Zapatero he hoped it wouldn’t give “false comfort to terrorists or enemies of freedom in Iraq.”
Shortly after Spain’s decision, Honduras announced a similar pullout plan. Honduran President Ricardo Maduro said his country’s 370 troops would withdraw “in the shortest time possible.”
Spanish and Honduran troops are mostly based in or around Najaf, where U.S. troops have been engaged with a Shiite militia, led by an anti-American Shiite Muslim cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr.
Also Tuesday, Halliburton Co. identified three of four bodies found near an April 9 attack on a fuel convoy as its contract workers from Michigan, Illinois and Louisiana. The company did not identify the fourth body.
Stephen Hulett, 48, of Manistee, Mich.; Jack Montague, 52, of Pittsburg, Ill.; and Jeffery Parker, 45, of Lake Charles, La. “were brave hearts without medals, humanitarians without parades and heroes without statues,” the Houston-based oil services company said in a press statement.
Kimmitt on Tuesday said one of the four bodies had been identified as a non-American. He would not provide further details or the victim’s nationality, saying he believed the home country would make an announcement.