- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 4, 2008

From combined dispatches

BAGHDAD | Iraq plans to renovate and reopen Abu Ghraib prison, the notorious site of executions and torture under Saddam Hussein and later of a U.S. prisoner abuse scandal, a government official said Wednesday.

On the security front, U.S. troops on boats in the Tigris River mistakenly killed six Iraqis on Wednesday in an exchange of fire between the two sides north of Baghdad, Iraqi officials said.

The sprawling prison on Baghdad’s western outskirts, which has not been used as a prison since 2006, will also feature a museum of crimes committed under Saddam, government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said.

“Iraq’s Cabinet has agreed to the Defense Ministry’s proposal … to renovate Abu Ghraib prison … with the reservation of part of the prison as a museum of crimes of the previous regime,” Mr. al-Dabbagh said in a statement, Reuters news agency reported.

Abu Ghraib was a byword for the brutality of Saddam’s reign, and in 2004 the prison gained further notoriety when photos emerged of U.S. soldiers abusing Iraqi detainees.

Pictures showing naked prisoners forced into sexually humiliating poses or cowering in front of snarling dogs unleashed a wave of global condemnation.

No schedule was given for the prison’s renovation and eventual reopening. It was not clear whether the museum would also document prisoner abuse by U.S. forces.

The Tigris clash began when Iraqi troops at a checkpoint fired at approaching U.S. military boats near Tarmiyah, 30 miles north of Baghdad, police and security officials said. They did not realize the boats, which had their lights off, were American.

The U.S. soldiers fired back, killing two Iraqi soldiers, two police officers and two U.S.-backed Sunni tribesmen, said the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not allowed to release the information to the media.

Two U.S. helicopters later fired on a one-room house on an island in the river near the site of the clash, the Iraqis said.

The U.S. military confirmed there was an incident of “mistaken fire” between U.S. and Iraqi forces while the U.S.-led coalition was conducting an operation in the area against suspected al Qaeda in Iraq militants. A U.S. spokesman said aircraft were also involved but did not give more details.

“It is always regretful when incidents of mistaken fire occur on the battlefield,” the spokesman, Maj. John Hall, said in an e-mail to the Associated Press. An investigation was under way, he said.

The shootout came two days after a suicide bomber attacked the home of a local awakening council leader in Tarmiyah. The leader was wounded and another member of the U.S.-allied Sunni group was killed, the U.S. military has said.

The awakening councils have joined the fight against al Qaeda in Iraq and are one of the key reasons why violence in Iraq is at its lowest levels in years.

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