Prison was a 'breeding ground' for Al-Qaeda, ex-inmate says

Extremists at the US's largest prison in Iraq, shut down this fall, were allowed to give training courses to inmates on how to use explosives and how to become suicide bombers, according to a report at Al-Jazeera English.

Adel Jasim Mohammed, a former inmate at Camp Bucca who spent four years there without ever facing charges, told the news network that "US officials did nothing to stop radicals from indoctrinating young detainees at the camp," AJE reports.

"Extremists had freedom to educate the young detainees. I saw them giving courses using classroom boards on how to use explosives, weapons and how to become suicide bombers," Mohammed said.

"In 2005, an extremist was sent to our camp. At first, Sunnis and Shias rejected his teachings. But we were told that he was imposed by the prison authority," he said.

"He stayed for a week and recruited 25 of the 34 detainees - they became extremists like him."

This is not the first time that such allegations about Camp Bucca have been made, but a growing number of witnesses coming forward makes the allegations more credible. Last month, ex-inmate Abu Mohammed told the Pakistan Tribune that the prison was a "breeding ground" for Al-Qaeda.

"The illiterate and straight-forward people were the easiest prey for indoctrination," Mohammed said.

Earlier this year Iraqi police described US-run prisons as "factories for terrorists" after stating that two suicide bombers who attacked government ministries and killed 100 people on August 19 had once been incarcerated at Camp Bucca.

But Brig.-Gen. David Quantock, the US military official in charge of detention centers in Iraq, rejected the charge.

"What frustrates me is the idea that there was a lot of radicalization going on inside the facilities of which I completely disagree," said Quantock. "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."

The Obama administration announced in September that it was shuttering the prison facility.

It is estimated that some 100,000 Iraqis spent time at Camp Bucca from 2003 to 2009, the years it was operational. US officials note that only four percent of those incarcerated returned to the jail after being freed. But, as AJE notes, it's impossible to determine the actual recidivism rate because many of those imprisoned were never convicted in court of any crimes, so it's unclear how many were insurgents to begin with.

-- With Agence France-Presse

The following video was broadcast by Al-Jazeera English, December 11, 2009.

[youtube expand=1]