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22 Prisoners Die in Iraq Prison Bombing - 2004-04-20


In Iraq, at least 22 prisoners have been killed when suspected anti-coalition rebels shelled Baghdad's largest prison in what a U.S. general says might have been a botched attempt to free insurgents detained for taking part in the uprising against coalition forces.

U.S. General Mark Kimmitt says those killed in the prison attack were all security detainees round up by coalition forces.

"We have initial reports that 18 mortar rounds were fired earlier this afternoon at the Baghdad confinement facility. Preliminary reports indicate that more than 21 detainees were killed and more than 100 wounded."

Some 5,000 people are being held at the prison. There's been no word on whether those who fired the mortars have been caught.

West of Baghdad meanwhile, coalition spokesman Dan Senor is casting doubt on whether an agreement with leaders in the town of Fallujah will be able to convince Sunni militants there to turn in their heavy weapons and end what have been several weeks of intensive fighting with American Marines.

"While we believe that the Fallujah negotiators, the Fallujah delegation were quite serious about their intentions, we continue to question whether or not they will be able to deliver on those intentions, those commitments," he said.

And, with American troops already stretched in Iraq, Honduras has become the latest coalition member to announce plans to withdraw its nearly 400 troops from the country. The announcement appears to have been triggered by Spain's decision to pull all 1,300 of its forces out. General Kimmitt says the commitment of other Latin American members of the coalition remains uncertain.

"The Spanish have announced their withdrawal, the Hondurans have announced their withdrawal," he said. "We understand the El Salvadorans have decided to stay in the country until their departure at the end of July, beginning of August and I don't know that the Dominicans have made a decision at this point."

El Salvador has nearly 400 troops in Iraq, the Dominican Republic about 300.

Secretary of State Colin Powell says he has received solid commitments from other coalition members to remain in Iraq. But Thailand now says it will bring its more than 400 troops home if they have to stop reconstruction projects and instead focus on defending themselves from attack.

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