PORTLAND (AP) – The families of Maine Army National Guard soldiers guarding a prison in Iraq used e-mail and phone trees to spread the news after a barrage of mortar rounds killed 22 prisoners but hurt none of the Americans at the prison.

“That’s not the first time it’s happened, but it’s the first time it made CNN,” said Sam Jackson, whose son Cpl. Samuel “Craig” Jackson was deployed in January with the 152nd Field Artillery Battalion’s Waterville battery. “Thankfully, nobody in our unit was hurt.”

Maine soldiers in the unit, based in Caribou, are guarding the Abu Ghraib prison in western Baghdad. They escaped injury Tuesday as guerrillas fired a barrage of mortar rounds at the compound in what U.S. officials said may have been an attempt to spark an inmate uprising against American guards.

“This isn’t the first time that we have seen this kind of attack. We don’t know if they are trying to inspire an uprising or a prison break,” U.S. Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt told The Associated Press. In August, six security prisoners were killed in a mortar attack on the lockup, which was once Saddam’s most notorious prison.

The Maine soldiers were at the prison when the attack occurred, Maine National Guard Maj. Peter Rogers said, leading to anxious moments for family members in Maine.

Rogers said stateside commanders received an e-mail from Capt. Phillip Trevino that read: “The facility did receive a significant mortar attack today. All my soldiers are fine.”

Jackson said his son chooses to take lunch in the guard tower in which he and his men serve 12-hour shifts rather than cross an exposed area to the cafeteria.

“If everything is going smoothly in the prison, everything is easy. Right now, their big thing is staying out of harm’s way,” Jackson said.

An estimated 30,000 Iraqis were executed at the Abu Ghraib prison before Saddam Hussein emptied the cells in October 2002.


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