Guards uncover 600-foot escape tunnel at US prison in Iraq

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Sunday, March 27, 2005 US troops guarding Camp Bucca in southern Iraq have apparently foiled an escape plan by uncovering a 600 ft of escape tunnel leading from the sprawling, 6,000+ person, detention center. The tunnel had apparently not been used, and officials were uncertain how long detainees had been working on it. No information has been given regarding any prisoners who may have been responsible for the effort.

A number of such tunnels had been found before, but none of this scale or quality.

"We were very close to a very bad thing," said Major General William Brandenburg, US commander of detainee operations in Iraq.

The prisoners may have planned to make their move under cover of dense fog that often rolls in from the Persian Gulf.

"There was a good chance they would have got out of the camp," he said.

Extending from beneath the floorboards of a detainee tent to the exterior of the camp, and dug using shovels fashioned from thick poles, canvas, pieces of metal and rope from the tents, the tunnel was buried between 12 to 16 feet underground over its 600 ft length, and around 3ft wide. Dirt had been removed using a cut-open, five-gallon water jug, according to Lt. Col. Guy Rudisill, speaking for the detainee system.

Colonel Rudisill said the guards had begun searching for underground escape passages after finding a 300 ft tunnel last week. They then noticed dirt in latrines and piles of dirt by the camp perimeter.

The facility, with 6,049 prisoners, is twice as large as the notorious Abu Ghraib in Baghdad and holds nearly two-thirds of all those detained in Iraq.