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WASHINGTON - The 82nd Airborne Division is sending about 700 soldiers to Iraq to provide extra security for detainees, whose numbers have doubled over the past year, officials said Wednesday.

The 1st battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, based at Fort Bragg, N.C., has begun preparing to deploy over the next two months. It will be the battalion's second tour in Iraq; the first was from September 2003 to April 2004. Before that the battalion was in Afghanistan from July 2002 to January 2003.

An announcement at Fort Bragg on Monday gave no information about the battalion's new mission in Iraq, but Pentagon officials said Wednesday that the soldiers are needed to augment security for detainee operations. Spokesman Bryan Whitman said the deployment does not indicate any decision has been made to increase U.S. forces in Iraq this fall to provide security for planned voting in October and December.

Army Lt. Col. Barry Venable, a Pentagon spokesman, said the 700 soldiers would be prepared to perform a range of duties related to detainee operations, including prison guard duty and providing defensive security around a prison compound.

There currently are three main detention centers in Iraq - Abu Ghraib, Camp Bucca and Camp Cropper. Another, called Fort Suse, is being built to accommodate a prisoner population that has expanded rapidly as more suspected insurgents are captured. Fort Suse is on the site of a Russian-built former Iraqi military barracks near the northern city of Sulaymaniyah.

Venable said the number of detainees in Iraq has grown from 5,400 in September 2004 to about 10,800 today.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said last month he wants the Iraqi government to move toward assuming full responsibility for detainee security and control.

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