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Iraqi POWs to be Returned to Baghdad's New Government - 2003-04-09

Coalition forces in charge of Iraqi prisoners of war say they will be released to a new government in Baghdad shortly after the conflict ends. U.S. Army Colonel John Della Jacono, who is in charge of the main prisoner of war camp in Umm Qasr, Iraq told reporters at the Pentagon via a satellite link that the prisoners are being housed in tents and have plenty of food and water.

Colonel Della Jacono indicated coalition forces do not expect to hold the EPW's, or enemy prisoners of war, for very long.

"All those being captured today in Baghdad will be evacuated from Baghdad to this facility here. This is the end state," Colonel Jacono said. "The EPW's will remain here until the end of hostilities at which point a decision will be made on the procedures for repatriation to either an interim authority or a legitimate government in Iraq."

Colonel Della Jacono said the Iraqi prisoners are cataloged and questioned soon after arrival at the camp and a few are giving coalition forces valuable military information.

"There are a few that have given us some insights on the state of readiness, the cohesion of some of the units," said Colonel Jacono. "So there has been some talk about how well the units, how they were able to accomplish their mission, as you will. So there has been some of that discussion with some of the EPW's."

During the first Gulf war Colonel Della Jacono said he helped process 83,000 Iraqi prisoners of war.

The colonel said despite an extensive psychological warfare campaign that included coalition television, radio and millions of dropped leaflets urging Iraqi soldiers to surrender, few have actually done so.

He said the current number of Iraqi prisoners is far lower than coalition forces expected.

"Initially we were planning about 50,000 at that point or higher," explained Colonel Jacono. "If you look at the Iraqi forces on the battlefield, or the number of divisions, we saw that maybe at a certain point in time we would have seen a lot of surrendering units as you will.

"Taking that, lessons learned from the last war [Gulf war], that is why we kind of developed a capitulation strategy to allow these Republican Guard divisions and regular army divisions to capitulate on the battlefield," he added. "However, in this point in time, we have seen very few capitulate."

Colonel Della Jacono said representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross [ICRC] are visiting the Iraqi prisoners and soon hearings will be held to determine whether they can be released or will be held for trial on war crimes charges.