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Inmates transferred out of Abu Ghraib as coalition hands off control

BAGHDAD -- Iraq's government has formally taken over Abu Ghraib, where inmate abuses by US soldiers caused a scandal, and all inmates have been transferred to another facility, officials said Saturday.

Government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said the facility, which has become synonymous with abuse, had been emptied of any detainees.

``The Abu Ghraib detention facility was handed over to the Iraqi government," said Dabbagh, spokesman for Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Lieutenant Colonel Keir Kevin Curry, US spokesman for detainee operations, also confirmed that coalition forces had transferred operations of Abu Ghraib to the Iraqi Justice Ministry on Friday.

Iraqi officials allowed AP Television News to film the first-ever footage of the detention facility since it came under the control of the US military after Saddam Hussein's regime was ousted in April 2003.

The exclusive footage showed empty hallways and row upon row of unlocked cells with open doors. Some of the cell walls were covered with graffiti of names and dates, apparently referring to durations of incarceration.

Iraqi soldiers and their Humvees were seen at checkpoints outside the facility and inside the compound. One soldier flashed the victory sign as his vehicle drove in.

The formal transfer was conducted between Major General Jack Gardner, Commander of Task Force 134, and representatives of the Iraqi Ministry of Justice and the Iraqi army. Soldiers from the First Iraqi Army Division will provide security for the facility until the Iraqi Ministry of Justice dispatches its security detail.

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