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Attacks on Abu Ghraib highlight continuing Iraqi armed resistance
On April 2, Iraqi insurgents launched one of the highest profile attacks of the two-year guerilla war against the US-led occupation: an assault on the Abu Ghraib prison complex in Baghdad where thousands of Iraqis are being detained.
As dusk fell, as many as 50 well-armed guerillas unleashed a barrage of mortar rounds and rocket-propelled grenades at a prison watchtower, giving cover to suicide bombers who detonated two explosive-filled vehicles in attempts to blow a hole in the prison walls.
Over the next two hours, the insurgents fought a pitched battle with prison guards and US military reinforcements before carrying out a military-style withdrawal into the surrounding residential neighbourhoods. In the course of the firefight, 44 American troops and at least 13 prisoners were wounded.
On April 4, a second attack on the prison was carried out. A suicide bomber detonated a tractor laden with explosives outside the complex, wounding five civilians in the vicinity.
There is little doubt that Abu Ghraib was targeted to ensure the insurgents’ actions were widely reported and to develop political support for the armed resistance. Once notorious for the brutality of Saddam Hussein’s rule, the prison has become a symbol of the crimes being committed against the Iraqi people under US occupation, especially since the publication last year of photos showing detainees being tortured and degraded by American interrogators and prison guards.
Many of the 3,500 Iraqis currently held in the prison camp were seized by American troops during the massive US assault that reduced the city of Fallujah to rubble last November, or in the course of more recent raids. Hundreds of men are being held for little more than being of fighting age, members of the former ruling Baathist Party or the relatives of suspected insurgent leaders—so-called “security detainees”. Many have no idea when or if they will face trial and have no access to legal counsel. There are widespread allegations of overcrowding, abuse, poor food and denial of family visits.