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Context of 'August 16, 2003: Mortar Attack on Abu Ghraib Kills Five and Injures 67 Prisoners'

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The latest edition of the US Army’s Field Manual 34-52 is published, and it includes rules governing interrogations. It unequivocally states that binding international treaties and US policy “expressly prohibit acts of violence or intimidation, including physical or mental torture, threats, insults, or exposure to inhumane treatment as a means of or aid to interrogation. Such illegal acts are not authorized and will not be condoned by the US Army.” It defines “physical torture” to include “infliction of pain through chemicals or bondage,” “forcing an individual to stand, sit or kneel in abnormal positions for prolonged periods of time,” “food deprivation,” and “any form of beating.” It notes that the “use of torture by US personnel will bring discredit upon the US and its armed forces while undermining domestic and international support for the war effort. It also may place US and allied personnel in enemy hands at a greater risk of abuse by their captors.” These regulations will still be in effect after 9/11. (CBC News 11/16/2005)

Three mortar rounds kill at least five prisoners and injure 67 at Abu Ghraib. (International Committee of the Red Cross 2/24/2004 pdf file)

A mortar attack kills two soldiers at Abu Ghraib, and injures Lt. Col. Steven L. Jordan and ten other soldiers. Jordan, who has only just arrived at the prison (see September 17, 2003), is extremely traumatized by the deaths of the two soldiers, one of whom suffered immensely. Two Iraqis, a man and a woman, are quickly apprehended on suspicion of involvement in the mortar attack and brought to the prison where a team of military intelligence soldiers and the MP Internal Reaction Force (IRF) are waiting for them. Two military intelligence soldiers yell at the man and begin hitting him, while he remains passive and handcuffed. MP 1st Lt. David Sutton intervenes and stops the beating. The detainee is released later in the day when his involvement in the attack is determined unlikely. The abuse is subsequently reported to Forward Operating Base (FOB) Commander Lt. Col. Jerry L. Phillabaum. The MPs and five military intelligence soldiers who were present at the incident all provide witness statements. Interestingly, as Maj. Gen. George R. Fay later relates (see August 25, 2004), “While the MP statements all describe abuse at the hands of an unidentified MI [Military Intelliigence] person…, the MI statements all deny any abuse occurred.” Phillabaum reports the incident to the Criminal Investigation Division (CID), which determines there are insufficient grounds for prosecution. (US Department of Defense 8/23/2004 pdf file)

The worst mortar attack on Abu Ghraib to date takes place. Twenty-two Iraqi detainees are killed and more than 100 injured. (American Forces Press Service 9/21/2004)

On May 14, 2004, 293 prisoners are released from Abu Ghraib prison. (CNN 5/18/2004) Over the next weeks until mid-June, an estimated additional 1,680 prisoners are released from the prison. (Pound 6/21/2004) Prior to these mass releases, there were about 3,800 prisoners at Abu Ghraib. (CNN 5/18/2004)


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