US adamant Iraq's prison system not a breeding ground for militancy

BAGHDAD — Two men on death row for masterminding an Al-Qaeda truck bombing that killed 88 people on June 20 were recruited in a US-run prison camp, a senior Iraqi police commander said on Thursday.

Adnan Jassim Ali al-Hamdani and Hawas Falah al-Juburi were among three people sentenced on Tuesday to death by hanging for their part in the bombing in the predominantly Shiite Turkmen town of Taza in northern Iraq which also wounded 265 people, according to a police toll.

"The convicts were recruited by the terrorist organisation during their detention in Camp Bucca," a US-run detention centre near the southern port of Basra that was closed in September, police commander Ahmed Abu Rarif told a Baghdad news conference.

He said that Juburi went on to become head of Al-Qaeda operations in Kirkuk and Nineveh provinces after spending four years in Camp Bucca.

The police chief showed a videotape which he said contained the two men's confessions.

"I was recruited in 2008 by one of the Al-Qaeda emirs (commanders) who was held in Bucca," Juburi said in the recording.

"I worked with many emirs in Mosul and Tikrit and then I was named emir for the two provinces."

Hamdani said: "I was Hawas's friend, we were together in Bucca. I joined the Al-Qaeda organisation during my time in prison."

There have been repeated charges both from Iraqi officials and former inmates that the US-run prison system in Iraq became a breeding ground for militancy, a charge strongly denied by the US army prisons chief.

"What frustrates me is the idea that there was a lot of radicalisation going on inside the facilities of which I completely disagree," Brigadier General David Quantock told AFP in a November interview.

"A lot of these guys were radicals even before they got into our facilities and we spent a lot of time and resources separating the extremists from the moderates," he said.

"Of our total population since we started taking people off the streets, almost 90,000, we've only had 3,700 come back into our facilities, that's about four percent recidivism."

Quantock was brought in to overhaul US detention facilities after the 2004 scandal of Abu Ghraib, when pictures showed that American soldiers had tortured and sexually humiliated Iraqi prisoners.