Mortar Attack Kills 22 Prison Detainees

A mortar attack by insurgents on a Baghdad jail killed 22 prisoners and wounded 92 more on Tuesday.

Insurgents launched a dozen mortars into the U.S.-run Abu Ghraib prison (search) in the Iraqi capital city, possibly to incite a prison break or an uprising.

The dead and injured were all security detainees suspected of involvement in the anti-American violence in Iraq or leftovers from Saddam Hussein's (search) banished Baathist regime, according to Col. Jim Morgenthaler. The prison houses some 5,000 security prisoners.

"This isn't the first time that we have seen this kind of attack. We don't know if they are trying to inspire an uprising or a prison break," Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt (search) told Associated Press Radio.

Meanwhile, Iraqi leaders have set up a tribunal of seven judges and four prosecutors to try Saddam and other members of his regime, a spokesman announced Tuesday.

A date has yet to be set for the trial of Saddam, who was captured by U.S. troops in December and has since been held by U.S. troops at an undisclosed location in or near Baghdad.

Also Tuesday in Mosul, a roadside bomb killed one U.S. soldier, marking the 100th American combat death in the month of April alone.

Twenty-five of the prisoners were flown by helicopter for emergency medical treatment, according to Morgenthaler. There were no reports that any of the casualties were prominent members of Saddam's regime.

It was the heaviest mortar barrage against the sprawling prison complex in western Baghdad. Insurgents regularly fire on soldiers around the site — an American soldier was killed there two months ago — but shells have landed in the prison before.

In August, six security prisoners were killed by a mortar attack on the jail, which was once Saddam's most notorious prison.

U.S. Marines patrolling Baghdad discovered the area the mortars were fired from, but the insurgents had fled, Morgenthaler said.

In addition to the 100th American killed, four U.S. soldiers were wounded in the roadside bombing in Mosul, Lt. Col. Joseph Piek said. Three Iraqi civilians also were wounded, he said.

At least 1,100 Iraqis have been killed in fighting since the start of the month, according to an AP count based on reports from hospitals and both Iraqi and U.S. officials.

To the west in the volatile town of Fallujah (search), Iraqi security forces and civilians who fled days of street fighting with Marines began to return Tuesday in a critical test of an agreement between U.S. officials and local leaders to fend off an all-out assault by American forces.

A U.S. military-run radio station urged Fallujah residents to hand over heavy weapons — including machine guns, grenade launchers and missiles — to Iraqi security forces or at the mayor's office.

But it was not yet known whether guerrillas would abide by the call to surrender their arsenals. U.S. commanders have warned Marines might launch an all-out assault on the city if the insurgents don't disarm.

By midday Tuesday, up to 200 members of the Iraqi security forces had returned to their jobs.

As part of a deal announced Monday, the military agreed to let 50 families a day back into the city, but people kept showing up after that limit was reached.

Marines turned away about 150 people, said Capt. Ed Sullivan, and they asked them to come back Wednesday.

About a third of the city's 200,000 people fled in the two-week siege that killed at least 600 Iraqis, according to hospital officials.

Hamdi Rashid, a schoolteacher driving a minivan with 17 family members inside, was one of the Fallujans who made it back Tuesday.

"We love Fallujah," he said while waiting in line. "The Americans are doing good. They are going to arrest the bad men. We are looking for peace. We want to live in peace."

Iraqi policeman Maj. Khamis Suleyman said he expects Iraqi security forces to begin searching houses for weapons.

Much depends on whether the Fallujah civic leaders who reached the deal with the Americans can persuade the insurgents to disarm — or whether the Iraqi police are effective in uncovering weapons.

For the city's guerrillas, any handover of their heavy weapons would mean weakening, if not ending, their resistance against the U.S.-led occupation. The insurgents have gone to great lengths to build up their arsenal and hide it — Marines in the past two weeks have found impressive caches in secret rooms hidden by mirrors and buried in yards.

Fallujah has been largely quiet in recent days, with only sporadic clashes.

Before dawn Tuesday, gunmen opened fire on a Marine patrol near the Euphrates River, Capt. Jamie Edge said. Marines and gunmen exchanged fire for about five minutes, he added, with no immediate reports of casualties.

In the northern city of Mosul, a roadside bomb exploded as a U.S. military convoy passed by, killing a U.S. soldier and wounding four others, the military said. Three Iraqi civilians were also wounded, Lt. Col. Joseph Piek said.

At least 100 U.S. troops have been killed in action in April, making it the deadliest month since the U.S.-led invasion began in March 2003.

The U.S. military has been fighting on two fronts this month — in Fallujah and against a rebel Shiite cleric's militia in Najaf. The violence has been the worst in Iraq since Saddam Hussein's fall.

Since April 1, at least 1,100 Iraqis — including civilians, insurgents and security forces — have been killed, according to an Associated Press count compiled from hospital reports, Iraqi police officials and U.S. military statements.

Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the top commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, visited soldiers outside of Najaf Tuesday and said that U.S. troops had killed at least 1,000 insurgents in fighting this month.

"They've seen the might of the American military unleashed," he said.

Three of four bodies found near the site of an April 9 attack on a fuel convoy west of Baghdad were contract workers for Halliburton Co., the company said from Houston.

Thomas Hamill of Macon, Miss., the Halliburton worker seen on video footage after the convoy attack, remained unaccounted-for.

The fourth body has not been identified, Halliburton spokeswoman Wendy Hall said. Kimmitt said one of the four bodies was that of a non-American, but he would give no further details.

Two military men with the convoy, Pfc. Keith M. Maupin and Sgt. Elmer C. Krause, also were unaccounted-for, and Maupin, like Hamill, has been seen on video footage.

In the northern city of Mosul, a roadside bomb exploded as a U.S. military convoy passed by, killing a U.S. soldier and wounding four others, the military said. Three Iraqi civilians were also wounded, Lt. Col. Joseph Piek said.

Meanwhile, U.S. and coalition military leaders were trying to work out how to fill the gap left by the abrupt decision by Spain and Honduras to withdraw troops. Kimmitt said officials had been discussing how to replace the troops since Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero won parliamentary elections three days after the March 11 Madrid bombings — on a pledge to bring Spanish troops home. Spain says its 1,300 troops will be pulled out within six weeks.

President Bush told Zapatero on Monday he hoped it wouldn't give "false comfort to terrorists or enemies of freedom in Iraq."

Honduras announced a similar pullout. President Ricardo Maduro said his country's 370 troops would withdraw "in the shortest time possible."

Spanish and Honduran troops are mostly based in or around Najaf, where U.S. soldiers have been confronting the forces of an anti-American Shiite Muslim cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan firmly rejected questions about whether the coalition was unraveling. "The coalition is strong," he said.

Kimmitt also acknowledged that U.S. soldiers shot and killed two Iraqis working for the U.S. funded al-Iraqiya TV station Monday in central Iraq. He said the two had been filming a military checkpoint and drove toward it, failing to stop after repeated warning shots.

Correspondent Asaad Kadhim and driver Hussein Saleh were killed and cameraman Jassem Kamel was wounded near the city of Samarra, the station said.

Kimmitt said U.S. forces fired warning shots three times toward the journalists and their vehicles after they filmed the security posts and drove toward a military base. "After more warning shots, the vehicle didn't stop and continued to approach the base's gate and were engaged with direct fire," he said.

Coalition forces were investigating, Kimmitt added.

The number of Iraqi and foreign journalists and employees for news organizations killed in the past year — by U.S. troops, Iraqi gunmen or terrorist bombings — is now 26, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Sanchez also indicated there were no immediate plans to storm Najaf and end the standoff against al-Sadr. Najaf is home to the holiest Shiite shrine.

Moderate Shiite clerics have warned that an assault would spark outrage. Some 2,500 U.S. soldiers were deployed to Najaf, but that number was to drop by about 500, he said.

"We can wait," said Col. Dana J.H. Pittard, the head of U.S. forces deployed outside Najaf. "Ultimately, we still want Iraqis to solve this problem."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.