Fri, Jul 16, 2010 - Page 7 News List

Two bomb attacks in Iraq mar prison handover day

TRANSFER OF CONTROLThe US built Camp Cropper to house top members of Iraq’s former Baathist regime. It was handed over to Iraqi officials yesterday

NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE , BAGHDAD

Police officials say bombs have killed eight people in Iraq, including six in former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein’s hometown yesterday just hours before US forces were due to transfer control of the last prison they run to Iraqi authorities.

The US’s handover of Camp Cropper, which was built to handle senior members of Saddam’s Baathist regime, marks a milestone in Iraq’s road to full sovereignty, as well as the end of a troubling chapter in the US’ presence in Iraq. The attacks, however, were a reminder of the challenges confronting Iraq.

Authorities said a car bomb targeting a police patrol killed a senior officer, two policemen and three civilians in the city of Tikrit. At least 14 civilians were wounded.

Earlier, a bomb attached to a Baghdad minibus left two dead and another five people wounded.

Even after the prison handover, the US will retain control over about 200 prisoners, including some former members of Saddam’s government who have been sentenced to death, and some members of al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia and other militants, General Ray Odierno, the top US military commander in Iraq, told reporters this week.

On Wednesday, however, an Iraqi government official said several former members of the Saddam government, including former finance minister Tariq Aziz, had been transferred to Iraqi authority.

Camp Cropper, a maximum security prison on an US military base near the Baghdad International Airport, houses about 1,700 detainees. It housed Saddam after his capture in November 2003, until his execution.

The transfer of Camp Cropper is another step toward US President Barack Obama’s vow to end the war, but one that comes with inevitable reminders of the abuse scandal at Abu Ghraib prison, as well as lesser-known allegations of abuse at Cropper in 2003 that were made by the International Committee for the Red Cross. Odierno reflected on that legacy this week.

“Abu Ghraib was a lesson that we weren’t prepared to handle large masses of detainees when we came in to this operation back in 2003,” he said.

“We made some real errors in thinking that it would be like Desert Storm and we would just hold prisoners of war for a period of time and we’d release them,” he said.

“We didn’t properly anticipate a counterinsurgency which would require us to handle a large number of detainees for a significant amount of time. And frankly we weren’t trained or prepared to do it. And we ended up having significant issues. But we’ve learned from it, we’ve moved on from that,” he said.

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