Assault on Iraq prisons kill at least 20

2013-07-22 13:09
Iraqis look at a destroyed shop following a car bomb in the Topchi neighborhood of northern Baghdad. (AFP)

Iraqis look at a destroyed shop following a car bomb in the Topchi neighborhood of northern Baghdad. (AFP)

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Baghdad - Militants attacked two Iraqi prisons including the notorious Abu Ghraib in a bid to free inmates, killing 20 security force members in fierce all-night clashes, officials said on Monday.

The co-ordinated attacks on the prisons in Taji, north of Baghdad, and Abu Ghraib, west of the Iraqi capital, were launched on Sunday night and lasted for around 10 hours, they said.

A police colonel said seven inmates escaped from Abu Ghraib during the clashes but were later arrested, while lawmakers and jihadists claimed that thousands of prisoners were freed.

"Between 500 and 1,000 prisoners escaped, mostly members of the al-Qaeda network, from the Abu Ghraib prison," Hakem al-Zamli, a member of parliament's security and defence committee, said on Sunday's incident.

"It cannot be tolerated," he said. "... Those proven negligent in the prison's administration must be held accountable."

Bombs, gunmen

Officials said at least 20 members of the security forces were killed in the attacks on Taji prison and on Abu Ghraib, a facility notorious for abuses committed by US forces against Iraqi detainees in 2004.

Forty security force members were wounded.

It was not immediately clear how many of the assailants were killed, wounded or captured.

The attacks were launched at around 9:30 pm (18:30 GMT) on Sunday when the gunmen fired mortar rounds at the prisons.

Four car bombs were detonated near the entrances to the prisons, while three suicide bombers attacked Taji prison, said the police colonel.

Five 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.

Under control

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

"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.

"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 front group announced it would target the Iraqi 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.

Read more on:    iraq

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