The U.S. military will pull its jailers out of Abu Ghraib and transfer security prisoners to a new facility expected to be ready in three months. Abu Ghraib, meanwhile, will be handed over to Iraqi authorities
BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) — The U.S. military will transfer detainees from Abu Ghraib to a new facility within three months, a U.S. military spokesman said Thursday.
About 4,500 detainees will be moved to Camp Cropper, a detention facility at Baghdad International Airport that is being expanded to handle the influx, said Lt. Col. Keir-Kevin Curry, in charge of detainee operations.
Camp Cropper has been holding high-value detainees, and Saddam Hussein also has been held there, he said.
The new prison could be completed in two to three months, after which Abu Ghraib will be handed over to the Iraqi government, Curry said.
However, a Pentagon official said that timetable was optimistic.
Iraq in November began transferring prisoners in its custody to other prisons to protect them from insurgents who were frequently attacking the facility, said Bosho Ibrahim, Iraq’s deputy justice minister. The last of the Iraqi-held prisoners was transferred this week, he said.
Abu Ghraib, notorious in Iraq for the treatment of prisoners there under Saddam Hussein, became notorious worldwide for the treatment of detainees there under U.S. control after the U.S.-led invasion.
More than 25 people have been "held accountable for criminal acts and other misconduct associated with prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib," according to the U.S. Defense Department’s Web site.
At the height of the abuse scandal, President Bush announced plans to build a prison to replace Abu Ghraib. He said the United States would demolish the facility "as a fitting symbol of Iraq’s new beginning."
Some Iraqis, however, have said the prison should be converted to a human rights museum.
13 killed in Baghdad
In the ongoing violence in the Iraqi capital, 13 people, including a child and a humanitarian worker, were killed Thursday in four separate attacks, three of them involving bombs. (Watch a deadly Thursday in Baghdad — 1:35)
Around 9:15 a.m., a roadside bomb went off in western Baghdad, killing six civilians, including a child, and wounding seven others, police said. Attackers appeared to be targeting an Iraqi army patrol but missed, said an official with the Baghdad emergency police.
Around 2 p.m., a car bomb exploded as a police commando convoy was passing in front of Yarmouk Hospital in central Baghdad. Two people were killed and seven others wounded. All the victims were civilians.
Six hours later, three people were killed and 10 were wounded when a car bomb exploded outside a Sunni mosque in southeast Baghdad. Since the bombing of a Shiite shrine, the Al-Askariya Mosque, in Samarra last month, violence between Shiites and Sunni Arabs has been widespread, and hundreds have died.
Also in Baghdad, a female employee of an Iraqi humanitarian organization and a man who also worked inside Baghdad’s International Zone — formerly known as the Green Zone — were gunned down as they waited for a government car to pick them up, police said.
Kidnappings under investigation
Iraqi authorities on Thursday were investigating the kidnapping of about 50 employees of a private security company who were abducted Wednesday by gunmen wearing police commando uniforms.
Commandos operate under the Interior Ministry, but the ministry says its forces had nothing to do with the incident. Interior Minister Bayan Jabr ordered the probe.
"The Interior Ministry is still investigating this incident, although it was very strange," ministry spokesman Adnan Abdul Rahman said. "How is it possible all the members of a security company were taken hostage by gunmen?"
About 25 armed gunmen in 10 to 15 vehicles raided the Rawafed security firm, according to police. The gunmen reportedly grabbed money and documents from the building and forced the employees into vehicles in a two-hour operation. Then they drove off.
Three building guards escaped during the ordeal and informed police about what happened.
The firm is in Baghdad’s Zayuna neighborhood, home to a mix of Sunnis, Shiites and Christians.
U.S.: ‘Cycle of violence’ broken
Later Thursday, Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, the U.S. military spokesman, said the cycle of sectarian violence plaguing Iraq since the bombing of a Shiite mosque two weeks ago has been broken.
Authorities have said they believe insurgents bombed Al-Askariya Mosque, also known as the Golden Mosque, in Samarra, to provoke religious fighting.
"As a result of that, we saw a cycle of violence commence," Lynch said, creating a wave of retaliation by Shiites and then counter-retaliations by Sunnis.
As of Thursday, the military has confirmed 452 civilian deaths and 81 mosque attacks since the February 22 bombing of the Golden Mosque. CNN and other news media have reported higher numbers of deaths and mosque attacks.
"We do though believe we have now broken a cycle of violence," Lynch said, although he did not explain why.
In Washington Thursday, U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said the Pentagon won’t let Iraq spiral into a civil war but is training and equipping Iraqi forces to handle any contingencies.
"The plan is to prevent a civil war," Rumsfeld said. "And to the extent that one were to occur from the security standpoint is to have the Iraqi security forces deal with it to the extent that they are able to."