British soldiers fired plastic bullets at inmates in a British-run prison in Iraq after several guards were attacked while serving them food, a British military official said on Thursday.Most of the detainees at the facility at Shuaiba logistics base near the southern city of Basra are suspected members of Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr’s Mehdi Army militia.
British military spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Kevin Stratford-Wright said the prisoners were treated for cuts and bruises after Wednesday’s fracas, which he described as a minor disturbance, while two guards suffered minor injuries.
“Internees attacked several guards when food was being delivered. A small number of baton rounds were fired.”
Hakim al-Mayahi, who heads the Basra provincial council’s security committee, said inmates rioted in protest against their detention without trial, some for up to two years.
“We hold the British forces accountable for the safety of the prisoners,” he said.
Another British military spokesman, Major David Gell, said the detainees were viewed as a threat to Iraq’s security.
“Each individual’s case is reviewed every 28 days … At that point they can be interned for a further period, released, or handed over to the Iraqi system.”
Ten detainees escaped from the facility last week after swapping clothes and changing places with a group of men posing as visitors.
All prisoners are to be transferred to a new detention facility when the base is handed over to Iraqi security forces next month.