Skip to comments.U.S. forces thwart major escape in southern Iraq
Posted on 03/25/2005 11:27:12 AM PST by MikeA
CAMP BUCCA, IRAQ -- U.S. military police Friday thwarted a massive escape attempt by suspected insurgents and terrorists from this southern Iraq Army base that houses more than 6,000 detainees when they uncovered a 600-foot tunnel the detainees had dug under their compound.
"We were very close to a very bad thing," Major Gen. William Brandenburg said Friday after troops under his command discovered the tunnel that prisoners had painstakingly dug with the help of makeshift tools.
Within hours of the discovery on the first tunnel, a second tunnel of about 300 feet was detected under an adjoining compound in the camp, which holds 6,049 detainees. The elaborate escape is reminiscent of the 1994 movie, "The Shawshank Redemption," where a prisoner burrows his way out of prison.
The key difference, however, is that not one Iraq prisoner got out.
The discoveries came just hours before Brandenburg, who commands Multinational Force detainee operations in Iraq, toured the camp with Gen. George Casey Jr., the top Army general in Iraq, who was making his first visit to this remote desert camp in southwestern Iraq near the Kuwaiti border.
Brandenburg said the prisoners, who include Iraqis and suspected terrorists from other Arab countries, probably were waiting for the dense fog that often rolls in at night from the nearby Persian Gulf before attempting their escape.
"We get fog after midnight in which you can't see 100 feet," he said. "I think they were waiting on poor visibility and I think there was a good chance they would have gotten out of the camp."
Brandenburg, whose command also includes the better known but smaller Abu Ghraib camp near Baghdad, said soldiers in charge of Camp Bucca suspected that an escape attempt might be in the offing because they had found a small tunnel in another part of the camp about five days ago, and had been told by detainees that other tunnels were being dug.
Brandenburg also said that in recent days there were "people outside the camp who we're not used to seeing," which was another indication that "something was going on."
Brandenburg, who was spending the night at the nearby Basrah airport while waiting for Gen. Casey to arrive from Baghdad Friday morning, said he was awoken at 1:30 a.m. by an officer from Camp Bucca who said, "Sir, you won't believe what we've found."
When Branderburg and Casey arrived at Camp Bucca, they were shown the tunnel's exit point, which was outside the chain link fence and concertina wire that surrounds the camp's eight compounds, each of which contains more than 600 prisoners, and several smaller compounds.
The prisoners had used a cut-away five-gallon gas can attached to a 60-foot-long rope to haul the sandy soil out of the tunnel. They apparently used makeshift tools to dig and reinforce the tunnel, and covered the entry point inside the compound with a false floor made from wooden slats from their beds, which in turn they concealed under two feet of dirt.
The detainees disposed of the dirt they had dug from the tunnel by flushing it down their latrines, which gave camp officials another clue that something was amiss when workers emptying the latrines complained that the filters on their trucks were getting jammed.
Col. James Brown, the commander of the 18th Military Police Brigade that is in charge of Camp Bucca and Abu Ghraib, said two detainees tried to escape 10 days ago but were caught. He said the latest escape attempt was clearly planned to allow more than 100 prisoners to flee the camp.
Brown said it is reasonable to assume that other tunnels will be discovered in other parts of the camp.
During Casey's tour of the camp, thousands of the prisoners watched silently and sullenly as he and his entourage walked past them, and as he climbed a watchtower for a panoramic view.
As Casey walked past the compound where the second tunnel was discovered, a soldier drove a large backhoe into the camp and began digging up the tunnel.
Camp officials also showed Casey a large collection of makeshift weapons taken from the detainees, including knives, slingshots, and even a fake flak jacket made from Muslim prayer shawls that resembled the real thing.
"I am never amazed at what I see," Brandenburg said of the ingenious technique used by the detainees in their escape attempt.
At the end of his tour, Casey presented a special medal to the young woman soldier, Specialist Lisa Wesson of Ashville, N.C., who discovered the larger tunnel during a routine investigation.
Camp Bucca is almost twice the size of Abu Ghraib, which was the scene of last year's prisoner abuse scandal that has prompted widespread changes in the handling of detainees. There are 3,243 detainees at Abu Ghraib, and another 114 after a camp near the Baghdad airport, which includes Saddam Hussein and other top officials of his deposed government.
But these Iraqi terrorists filth at this prison should be given NOTHING in the way of tools or eating utensils. Make them eat with their faces directly in the food like the animal scum they are. No more writing utensils or ANYTHING that can be used to dig.
And by all means stop showing "The Great Escape" over and over as the after dinner movie...
good news bump!
Kind of like they were digging their own mass grave?
I'm thinking this is the same Brandenburg who was my battalion commander in an earlier life.
If it is, he's a stud, and this'll be taken care of.
Thanks EatB and BTT!!
U.S. forces thwart major escape in southern Iraq ping.
Where are the Catepillar bulldozers when you need them?
Too bad they weren't that "industrious" in rebuilding Iraq, eh?
I don't remember much digging in the Shawshank Redemption. All I remember is he dug out a concrete block or brick and then went through the sewer system. The Great Escape would be a better analogy.
Shoulda filled the tunnels with oil and lit it.
Looks like the cooler for Ali bin Hogan and his men...
Shocking, very shocking. A nightmare was very close with another 6000 terrorists back into the battlefields. I am glad the tunnels were found.
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