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Evidence of torture found in Basra prison raid

Reuters | March 4, 2007

Iraqi forces backed by British troops found evidence of torture when they raided an Iraqi intelligence agency detention centre in the southern city of Basra on Sunday, a British military spokesman said.

Officials at the detention centre, part of a police compound in the city, told Reuters on Sunday that 37 prisoners were freed in the raid. They showed reporters offices that

had been searched, with files thrown on the floor, desks overturned and doors broken open in the pre-dawn raid.
Major David Gell said the raid on the National Iraqi Intelligence Agency detention facility in central Basra was part of an operation led by Iraqi forces.

"Five individuals were arrested on suspicion of serious terrorist activities including involvement in improvised explosive devices and attacks against both civilians and multinational forces," Gell said.

"The Iraqi counter-terrorist forces then exploited information received and that's when the National Iraqi Intelligence Agency building was subsequently struck," he said.

"We believe there were about 30 people found imprisoned in the building and there was evidence of torture," Gell said.

Shi'ite militias vying for control of the oil-rich city are suspected of infiltrating police in Basra and it is not the first time British-backed raids have targeted police facilities.

There was no immediate information on Sunday's raid from Iraqi security forces involved, and the spokesman for the Interior Ministry, which controls the police, could not immediately be reached for comment.

Qassim Mohammed said he was among the detainees freed during the raid but he returned to the scene on Sunday "because I am innocent and I don't want to be an outlaw. I came back to complete the procedures to be freed."

"About 3:00 or 3:30 (a.m.) we heard the sound of the breaking of windows and doors, then there was a lot of noise as people came in and then we heard the door of the prison opened," Mohammed told Reuters. He said he was not tortured.

He said he saw one of the officers at the detention centre detained and taken away by Iraqi and foreign troops.

Gell said around 100 multinational forces were involved in the raid in a supporting role.

He could not confirm any arrests at the detention facility, but said the five suspects arrested earlier were involved in kidnapping, torture, murder and bomb attacks.

"It was clearly a very successful operation. The Iraqi forces achieved their objective of detaining individuals and it's a clear demonstration of Iraqis taking responsibility for security and obviously a very positive sign," Gell said.

In December, British forces blew up the headquarters of the police serious crimes unit in Basra in a raid to rescue prisoners the said were about to be killed. The British said the unit was a "criminal enterprise" and a symbol of oppression.

(additional reporting by Claudia Parsons, Aseel Kami)



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