The U.S. military has begun releasing nearly 80 Iraqi prisoners a day as a gesture during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, the military announced Thursday.
Ramadan begins Thursday for Iraq's Sunni Muslims, and Friday for the country's majority Shiites. Tradition requires faithful to abstain from eating and drinking from sunrise to sunset during the monthlong observance.
The U.S. military, working with the Iraqi government, on Thursday launched a venture dubbed "Operation Lion's Paw" to expand detainee releases during Ramadan, the military said in a statement.
An impartial board will review the cases of eligible prisoners to determine whether they can be released as part of the program, it said.
"The process will be fair, open to all detainees who are qualified and will reflect the detainee population, with Sunni and Shiite detainees reviewed equally," the statement said. Authorities will release only those detainees who are no longer a threat to security, it added.
Such releases will continue through the end of Ramadan, on Oct. 13, the statement said.