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Marine general: Freed Iraqis not rejoining insurgency

  • Story Highlights
  • More than 1,000 freed detainees reportedly keep pledge not to rejoin insurgency
  • U.S. general tries to reassure Sunnis that detainees face no abuse
  • More than 80 percent of detainees are Sunnis
  • U.S. airstrike kills 13 suspected terrorists west of Baghdad
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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- None of the 1,000-plus Iraqi detainees freed in recent weeks have broken a pledge not to return to the insurgency, according to the Marine general who oversees the U.S. detention centers in Iraq.

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A U.S. military panel reviews a detainee's case at Camp Cropper near Baghdad.

Speaking in Arabic, Maj. Gen. Doug Stone on Wednesday reassured Iraqis about how the 25,000 detainees -- mostly Sunnis -- are treated after being taken into custody on suspicion of involvement in the insurgency.

Stone described the detention system as "open and transparent," saying it makes the detainees better citizens and helps break the cycle of violence and poverty in the country.

Stone said detainees get free medical care equal to what he gets as a general, food and water made to Islamic standards, educational opportunities, jobs skills and contact with families.

The U.S. detention centers -- at Camp Bucca near the southern port city of Basra and in Camp Cropper near Baghdad -- are political sore points for Sunnis, who make up 83 percent of the detainees held. The main Sunni political coalition -- the Iraqi Accord Front -- cited the centers as one reason for quitting the government during the summer.

Last month, the U.S.-led coalition launched Operation Lion's Paw in which between 50 and 70 detainees would be released daily during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan after taking a pledge not to rejoin the insurgency against the Shiite-led government.

"This pledge is an Iraqi pledge, a pledge before an Iraqi judge, frequently with a family member present," Stone said. "I am pleased to tell you that in the more 1,000 that have gone through this program and taken the pledge, not one has returned to threaten Iraqi or coalition forces."

Stone said the releases would continue at the same pace beyond Ramadan.

Stone's description seems a far cry from the Abu Ghraib prison operated by the U.S. military in the first years after the invasion. That prison was closed down and razed in the wake of an international scandal over prisoner abuse.

"There are no secrets that go on in detention," Stone said.

"Our facilities are open to inspection by any agency that we in the federal government believe is credible. These agencies are welcomed because they are windows for the world." Photo See what life's like inside Camp Cropper's walls »

By the time of their release, "detainees grow in terms of working in an inter-sectarian environment," he said.

Each detainee has a chance to take classes up to a sixth-grade level, and high school classes are being planned, Stone said. About one-third -- or 8,000 -- are in school, with 7,000 having passed the fifth-grade level, he said.

The 860 detainees who are 17 or younger are all in school, Stone said.

The average stay for a detainee is 300 days, but some have been detained for two years or longer, he said. A review board interviews detainees to decide if they are a threat to security, he said. If they are deemed not to be, they are offered freedom in exchange for taking the pledge.

Only 280 detainees are foreigners, mostly from Syria, Egypt, Iran, Sudan and Saudi Arabia, he said.

Other developments

  • Coalition forces battling insurgents in the Diyala province north of Baghdad killed an estimated 37 suspected terrorists and detained 25 during the past weekend, the U.S. military said. Five safe houses used by al Qaeda in Iraq were destroyed by air strikes Sunday, it said.
  • A coalition airstrike Wednesday killed a group of 13 suspected terrorists with possible ties to an al Qaeda in Iraq car-bombing network, the U.S. military said. The airstrike west of Baghdad followed a terrorist attack on a residence, the military said. After surveillance identified the attackers gathered in a field, aircraft was called in to engage them, the military said.
  • At least one policeman was killed and three others wounded Wednesday when a bomb detonated in a parked car near a bank in the northern city of Tikrit, police said.
  • At least one civilian was killed and four were wounded Wednesday when a roadside bomb detonated near the National Theater in Baghdad, the Iraqi Interior Ministry said. At least six civilians also were wounded when a roadside bomb went off east of Baghdad.
  • Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, the leader of Iraq's largest parliamentary bloc, returned to Iraq on Wednesday after completing a phase of cancer treatment in Iran. Al-Hakim is the head of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council -- one of Iraq's most powerful Shiite parties -- and the ruling Shiite alliance known as the United Iraqi Alliance.
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  • The U.S. military said at least 14 people died and 42 others were wounded in dual suicide vehicle bombings Tuesday in Baiji. But Iraqi police said the attacks killed at least 22 people and wounded 30 others.
  • Two U.S. soldiers died Wednesday in "non-combat related" incidents, the U.S. military said. One soldier was from Multi-National Division-Baghdad; the other was with Multi-National Division-Central. The number of U.S. military deaths in the Iraq war is 3,821, with 13 this month.
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