Wed, Apr 06, 2005 - Page 7 News List

Prisoners and guards injured as Iraqi detainees riot

CONFIRMING DETAILS The US military had denied a riot at Camp Bucca in which 16 people were injured until it was reported by Moqtada al-Sadr's movement

AFP , BAGHDAD

An Iraqi policeman looks at a shrapnel scared vehicle that crashed into a tree following an explosion along the road leading to Abu Ghraib, west of Baghdad yesterday. A civilian was killed and two others wounded by a car bomb targeting an Iraqi army convoy at 9:45am in Amariyah a defense ministry official. A high-ranking Iraqi army officer escaped unscathed from the attack.

PHOTO: AFP

Twelve Iraqi prisoners and four US prison guards were wounded when inmates rioted at Camp Bucca last week, torching tents and hurling rocks at Iraq's largest US-run detention center, the US military said yesterday after initially denying any knowledge of the incident.

The riot on Friday at the desert camp in southern Iraq where more than 6,000 prisoners are held was first reported by radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr's movement and confirmed by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

The US military had said initially it was unaware of the violence and only came forward with details after the ICRC revelations.

The violence erupted last Friday when inmates "protested the transfer of unruly detainees to another compound," the military said in a statement.

"During the disturbance, the detainees chanted, threw rocks and set several of their tents on fire. The disturbance was brought under control with only minor injuries to four guards and 12 detainees," the statement said.

On Monday, Christophe Beney, the head of the ICRC's Baghdad delegation, said a team from the organization had been at Camp Bucca near the southern port of Umm Qasr last Friday when the riot erupted.

It was a rare confirmation from the ICRC, which is normally sworn to silence about events transpiring during its visits to prisons around the world.

Al-Sadr follower Saheb al-Ameri, secretary-general of the Shahidallah (God) charitable organization, said the unrest was provoked by the refusal of prison authorities to give medical treatment to a detainee who had fallen sick and who was a member of the al-Sadr movement.

Other inmates became violent and US soldiers then fired rubber bullets and beat some prisoners up, wounding 70 to 100 of them, he said, adding that since the riot, inmates have had no water or electricity.

Al-Ameri said the riot was uncovered during a visit to Camp Bucca by members of the al-Sadr movement, adding: "We condemn these acts and we ask that human right organizations intervene quickly."

When first asked about the incident, Lieutenant Colonel Guy Rudisill, spokesman for the US-run detention centers in Iraq, said: "There have been no reports of mistreatment of detainees. Nothing like that happened down there. Nobody is denied medical attention down there."

Camp Bucca, home to 6,054 detainees, was the site of a huge riot on Jan. 31 that spread through four compounds, housing more than 2,000 detainees, and ended with US soldiers firing bullets into a crowd and killing four detainees.

The latest violence comes almost one year after details emerged of the torture of detainees by US troops at Abu Ghraib prison, which dealt a crippling blow to US efforts to win sympathy in Iraq.

The US military arrested hundreds of al-Sadr's Mehdi Army militia men during a revolt led by the radical cleric from last April to October.

The latest numbers of detainees in US custody in Iraq is 10,708, Rudisill said.

Camp Bucca is the largest prison in Iraq located in a barren desert plot where temperatures can soar to 60<>C.

The US military wants to expand and transform Bucca, named after a firefighter who died in the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on New York's World Trade Center, into a long-term detention facility for the most serious offenders that would include those held in Abu Ghraib.

The army had planned to tear down the facility after the official end of hostilities in May 2003, but scrapped this idea due to the scale and intensity of an insurgency that flared up afterward.

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