Image: U.S. soldiers rush to escort convoy.
Anja Niedringhaus  /  AP
U.S. soldiers rush to escort a convoy of prisoners released from the Abu Ghraib facility in Baghdad, Iraq, Friday, after the buses with the detainees were forced to stop on a highway when they came under attack.
updated 5/28/2004 8:10:06 AM ET 2004-05-28T12:10:06

U.S. soldiers escorting a convoy of prisoners released from the Abu Ghraib facility came under attack Friday, forcing the buses to stop on an Iraqi highway.

The prisoners had just left the Abu Ghraib facility -- the center of a scandal involving abuse of detainees by American soldiers -- when shots were fired from buildings near the freeway.

The soldiers hunkered down and the convoy of at least 13 buses stopped. The shooting ended quickly, but U.S. forces remained in place.

Hundreds of relatives who had been following the convoy also stopped and then swarmed around the vehicles. Prisoners then got off the buses and went home with their families.

The release was the second from the facility since the scandal broke over the abuse of detainees last month.

There was no immediate figure for the number of prisoners released, but the U.S. military said they would set up to 600 people free, reducing the number of those still detained to under 3,000.

It also came about a week after the first American accused in the scandal was sentenced to a year in prison for sexually humiliating detainees and taking a photo of prisoners stacked naked in a human pyramid.

Spc. Jeremy C. Sivits received a year in prison, a reduction in rank and a bad conduct discharge -- the maximum penalty -- after pleading guilty to maltreating detainees in the first court-martial stemming from the Abu Ghraib case. Three others were arraigned and deferred pleading. They will appear before a military judge on June 21.

The military periodically frees prisoners from Abu Ghraib, which was also notorious as the site of executions and torture during Saddam Hussein's regime. There are still between 3,000 and 4,000 people believed held there.

Following the revelations of abuse, U.S. officials have said they plan to cut the facility's population in half. But the military is still sending detainees who are considered security risks to the prison.

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