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Infamous Iraqi Prison Set to Reopen


Iraq's most notorious prison is almost ready to reopen for business.

Iraqi justice officials say Saturday the Abu Ghraib prison will start holding prisoners again in February.

Deputy Justice Minister Busho Ibrahim says the renovated facility will be renamed the Baghdad Central Prison and that it will eventually house up to about 14,000 prisoners.

Abu Ghraib has been closed since 2006. The prison first gained notoriety during the regime of Saddam Huessein, when it was used as a torture chamber and a site for mass executions, and then again in 2004, when the world learned of abuses committed there by U.S. prison guards. A U.S. Army investigation detailed abuses that led to one death and included alleged rape, sodomy, beatings and what was described as a sadistic "game" in which dog handlers terrorized prisoners.

Meanwhile, Iraqi officials say Saturday U.S. troops shot and killed a former officer in Saddam Huessein's army and his wife during a raid in Hawijah in northern Iraq. Their eight-year-old daughter was wounded.

A U.S. army spokesman confirmed the incident, saying it happened during a joint operation with Iraqi forces.

Also Saturday, Iran's ambassador to Baghdad has rejected U.S. accusations that Iran is seeking to interfere in upcoming elections in Iraq.

In an interview with the French news agency AFP Saturday, Ambassador Hasan Kazemi Qomi said the United States has never shown evidence to support the claim.

Iraqi and U.S. officials are hoping the January 31 elections will bring about greater security in the country, despite rising sectarian violence in recent weeks.

Three Iraqi policemen were killed Saturday when a suicide car bomber drove into a police checkpoint northwest of Baghdad.

Still, the top U.S. Marine officer James Conway says the situation in Iraq is stable enough for his forces there to be redeployed to Afghanistan, where insurgent violence has increased.

U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a reduction of U.S. troops in Iraq, and the doubling of forces in Afghanistan.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.

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