BAGHDAD, Iraq – The U.S. military announced Thursday that it will soon relinquish control of Abu Ghraib, the notorious prison that became part of the American lexicon after scandalous photographs surfaced nearly two years ago showing U.S. soldiers abusing and sexually humiliating Iraqi detainees at the facility.
Lt. Col. Keir-Kevin Curry, the U.S. military’s detainee operations spokesman, said that no date had been set for the handover but it would probably happen in two to three months.
Detainees would be transferred to a new prison being built at Camp Cropper, the site near Baghdad International Airport where Saddam Hussein and 126 other high-level detainees are already in custody.
The announcement came on yet another violent day in which 16 people were killed in a spate of attacks. The U.S. military also reported the death of a Marine on Wednesday in western Anbar province.
The Iraqi government also announced it hanged 13 convicted insurgents Thursday, marking the first time the country has executed militants for their crimes since the fall of the former regime.
Curry said the handover of Abu Ghraib is part of a long-term plan to transfer authority for detention operations to the Iraqi government.
More than 4,500 detainees are held at Abu Ghraib. Military officials said the facility is overcrowded and in need of replacement.
During Saddam’s reign, Abu Ghraib had an inglorious reputation. It held Iraq’s most hard-bitten criminals, and the regime’s political enemies were cast off to the facility to serve their time.
But it was not well known outside Iraq until publication in April 2004 of the photos of abuses of detainees, which also spurred worldwide anger and fueled the anti-American insurgency.