Armed militants attacked a northern Iraqi prison late Thurday in an assault that reportedly killed at least 12 people and freed over 80 detainees, according to Agence-France Press.
Local officials said insurgents broke into the Tikrit jail after assailing the guards, killing 10 guards and two inmates and allowing a total of 83 to escape, said AFP. However, The New York Times reported that at least 15 policeman were killed in the attack, and over 100 inmates set loose.
More than 40 over the prisoners have been apprehended since the jailbreak, according to the Times.
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The Associated Press reported that there were suspected member of Al Qaeda among the prisoners who escaped.
The prison holds a number of high-value prisoners, some of whom are on death row. Al Jazeera cited witnesses claiming more than the 83 prisoners had escaped, but the account could not be verified. Unrest had been reported earlier at the prison, said BBC, citing police as saying they had foiled earlier escape plans by prisoners.
It was not immediately clear how the prison was broken into, due to various and conflicting accounts.
"The attackers are controlling all the [entrances and exits] and the observation towers, and ... security forces are surrounding the prison," Salaheddin provincial deputy governor Ahmed Abdul Jabbar Abdul Karim told AFP.
Jailbreaks in Iraq are relatively frequent.