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Released Iraqi Prisoners Are Not Those Expected - 2004-01-08

Coalition officials in Iraq say the expected release of about 100 Iraqi detainees has not happened, even though several dozen prisoners were seen leaving Baghdad's main prison. The officials say they are still sorting out technical details before they can let the security detainees go. Hundreds of anxious family members waited outside Baghdad's notorious Abu Ghraib prison for hours, waiting to find out whether their relatives would be released.

In late afternoon, trucks carrying 60 to 80 people rumbled toward the prison gates. The relatives cheered and followed after them, hoping for a glimpse of their loved ones.

But it was not the big release everyone was waiting for. Officials describe those men as ordinary prisoners, not the security detainees being released under a new program announced on Wednesday.

Coalition spokesman Dan Senor says the coalition has 100 security detainees ready for release, but is still waiting for community leaders to come forward to take responsibility for their conduct. He refused to say whether any detainees have actually been set free, or when the releases might start.

The coalition says the 500 prisoners to be released are low-level insurgents who have not been directly involved in anti-coalition attacks.