Abu Ghraib prison burns after riot

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Cells in Abu Ghraib
Image: US Department of Justice.

Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison has been set alight during a riot. The jail became notorious after prisoner abuse was discovered there after US forces took over.

Wardens had been searching for drugs and banned items such as mobile phones when three inmates started a fire by burning a mattress. The fire injured three wardens but not prisoners, who began rioting. That injured three inmates. The Iraqi army responded and US helicopters assisted. The decision was later taken to evacuate the jail to other prisons around Baghdad.

Iraqi media had claimed that there were fatalities, but this has been denied by authorities. According to a US military spokesman, the initial scuffle was an apparent escape attempt. There have also been reports of inmates being upset at conditions, although the justice ministry says it is now a model prison, under its new name of Baghdad Central Prison.

Abu Ghraib, however, was not always a model prison. Under Saddam Hussein the jail was used for mass detention and murder of politically inconvenient people, and US soldiers have been caught torturing and sexually abusing prisoners, sparking public outrage and helping fuel the insurgency.