Nearly 600 prisoners have been released in Iraq today. They are the first batch of about 2,500 whom the Prime Minister said would be freed to help foster national reconciliation. Families arrived early at the main bus station in Baghdad, eager to meet relatives who had been held in US or Iraqi jails for several months. Most of those likely to be let go are Sunni Arabs.
Nuri al-Malaki hopes that yesterday’s announcement will help win over more people in the Sunni community and undermine support for the insurgency against the US-backed Shi’ite-led government. It comes as Maliki’s Shi’ite political alliance continues to block his attempts to name interior and defence ministers. Violence has continued to rage across Iraq since his grand coalition took office less than three weeks ago. There have been reports of a US raid on a house in a village near Baquba, northeast of the capital. An Iraqi woman said they were asleep when soldiers broke into their home using bombs, killing at least two people and stealing money and possessions. Meanwhile, in Baghdad, several of 50 Iraqi transport workers abducted earlier this week have been found alive, although some appeared to have been tortured.