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Hundreds Escape after Iraq Prison Attacks

Security forces try to recapture al-Qaeda members after deadly overnight assault on Abu Ghraib and Taji prisons.

QATAR, Jul 22 2013 (IPS) - A manhunt is under way for hundreds of inmates, including several high-ranking Al Qaeda members, who escaped two Iraqi prisons following deadly attacks.

Fifty-six people were killed in Sunday’s attacks on Taji prison, north of Baghdad, and the Abu Ghraib facility, west of the Iraqi capital.

The dead include 26 members of the security forces and 20 inmates. Ten of the attackers also died.

Gunmen fired mortar rounds at the prisons.

Four car bombs were also detonated near the entrances to the jails, while three suicide bombers attacked Taji prison, a police colonel said. Several roadside bombs also exploded near the prison in Taji.

Fighting continued throughout the night as the military deployed aircraft and sent in reinforcements around the two facilities.

“The number of escaped inmates has reached 500, most of them were convicted senior members of Al Qaeda and had received death sentences,” Hakim al-Zamili, a senior member of the security and defence committee in parliament, told Reuters.

‘Pursuing terrorists’

The situation was eventually brought under control on Monday morning, according to the colonel.

Most of them were convicted senior members of Al Qaeda and had received death sentences.

“The security forces in the Baghdad Operations Command, with the assistance of military aircraft, managed to foil an armed attack launched by unknown gunmen against the… two prisons of Taji and Abu Ghraib,” the interior ministry said in a statement late on Sunday night.

"Most of them were convicted senior members of Al Qaeda and had received death sentences."- Hakim al-Zamili, Senior member of the security and defence committee

“The security forces forced the attackers to flee, and these forces are still pursuing the terrorist forces and exerting full control over the two regions,” it said.

The attacks on the prisons came a year after Al Qaeda’s Iraqi affiliate announced it would target the justice system.

“The first priority in this is releasing Muslim prisoners everywhere, and chasing and eliminating judges and investigators and their guards,” said an audio message attributed to the group’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, in July last year.

Prisons in Iraq are periodically hit by escape attempts, uprisings and other unrest.

Abu Ghraib became notorious after photographs showing Iraqi detainees being humiliated and abused by their US guards were published in 2004. It also served as a torture centre under Saddam Hussein’s ousted regime.

Deadly violence also hit security forces in northern Iraq on Monday. A suicide car bomber attacked an army patrol in the city of Mosul, killing 12 people and wounding 16, while a roadside bomb wounded a soldier and a civilian near the city.

Published under agreement with Al Jazeera.

 
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