U.S. formally transfers control of Abu Ghraib to Iraqi government
The U.S. military has formally transferred control of the Abu Ghraib prison complex to the Iraqi government, ending American association with the facility that gained notoriety both under Saddam Hussein and after the invasion.
The formal transfer was completed Saturday, U.S. military officials said, with Maj. Gen. Jack Gardner, commander of Task Force 134, handing control of the facility to members of the Iraqi Ministry of Justice and the Iraqi army.
The U.S.-led military command had been transferring prisoners to other facilities since last month. The majority of those prisoners were moved to Camp Cropper, a newly-expanded and renovated facility in Baghdad, officials said.
Some 13,000 prisoners are in U.S. military custody in Iraq, according to a Saturday news release.
“Returning [Abu Ghraib] to the control of the Ministry of Justice clearly says that enforcement of the rule of law is a cornerstone of the constitutional government of Iraq,” Col. Monam Hashim Fahed, an Iraqi army battalion commander, was quoted as saying in the news release.
During Saddam’s era, the prison complex gained infamy as a place where government forces tortured and killed prisoners. In April 2004, photographs surfaced of American troops abusing and humiliating Iraqi prisoners at the prison and caused worldwide condemnation.
A small team of U.S. Marines will remain at the prison “for a short duration” to help train Iraqi army soldiers who will provide security there until the Ministry of Justice sends its own forces.
The Marines, from the 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, will “serve as a training cadre in order to assist the Iraqi unit through the initial stages of their mission,” the news release read.
A military transition team that has worked with the Iraqi brigade will continue to advise the unit.