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U.S. Frees 11,000 Detainees, Holds 2,050
Tue Jun 17, 4:18 PM ET
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By Sue Pleming

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. forces have released more than 11,000 prisoners taken in Iraq but are still holding more than 2,050, most of whom it deems common criminals, the U.S. military said on Tuesday.

"As of the 13th of June we were still holding 2,050 but we have released over 11,000," said Pentagon spokesman Cmdr Chris Isleib when asked how many Iraqis were still in U.S. custody.

These figures did not include several hundred Iraqis arrested this week in Operation Desert Scorpion, a U.S. military campaign in which loyalists to ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein were hunted down.

Most of the prisoners being held were street criminals, with only 380 as of June 13 deemed "enemy prisoners of war," said Isleib.

The main prison is near Iraq's southern port of Umm Qasr at a place called the Theater Internment Facility, a temporary prison camp first built by British forces and then taken over by U.S. troops in April.

"We have expanded it to hold as many people as needed," said Isleib.

There are also several prisons in the Baghdad area, one of which is being expanded to hold about 5,000 from its current capacity of about 300 prisoners, said Isleib. A smaller one is being designed for about 50 women and children.

"I expect there are a number of women and possibly children but they are all being treated humanely," said Isleib when asked to provide details on women and juveniles being held.

Earlier, the U.S.-led administration in Iraq said it would set up a special court to try the country's most serious offenders and planned to purge the judiciary of all officials with ties to Saddam.

Paul Bremer, the top U.S. official in Iraq, told a news conference the new Central Criminal Court would be used for trials of Saddam loyalists who had committed crimes against occupying U.S. and British forces.

In Washington, a State Department official said this court could be a hybrid model, bringing in judges from other countries where needed.

He said for offenses committed against American citizens during the war, it was likely those suspects would be tried in either a U.S. military court or in a U.S. district court.

"We are still thinking that through. The process over there is very fluid," he said.

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