Iraq has closed Abu Ghraib prison, made infamous by Saddam Hussein’s regime and US forces, due to security concerns following a mass breakout last year, the justice ministry says.
The country is suffering a protracted surge in violence that has claimed more than 2550 lives so far this year, and the area west of Baghdad where the prison is located is particularly insecure.
“The ministry of justice announced the complete closure of Baghdad Central Prison, previously (known as) ‘Abu Ghraib,’ and the removal of the inmates in cooperation with the ministries of defence and justice,” it said on Tuesday in an online statement.
The statement quoted Justice Minister Hassan al-Shammari as saying that 2400 inmates arrested or sentenced for terrorism-related offences have been transferred to other facilities in central and northern Iraq.
“The ministry took this decision as part of precautionary measures related to the security of prisons,” Shammari said, adding that Abu Ghraib prison is “in a hot area”.
It was not immediately clear whether the closure was temporary or final.
The prison is located between Baghdad and the city of Fallujah, which has been held by anti-government fighters since early January.
The prison served as a notorious torture centre under executed dictator Saddam Hussein, with an estimated 4000 detainees perishing there.
Abu Ghraib later became a byword for abuses carried out by US forces following the 2003 invasion when photographs surfaced the following year showing Iraqi detainees being humiliated by American guards, igniting worldwide outrage.
In July 2013, militants assaulted Abu Ghraib prison and another in Taji, north of Baghdad.
Officials said hundreds of inmates escaped and over 50 prisoners and members of the security forces were killed in the assaults, which were claimed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, a powerful jihadist group.