Agence France-Presse

Iraq searches for escaped prisoners


Hightened security is seen on the streets of the Iraqi capital Baghdad on May 8, 2011, after the accused mastermind of last year's Baghdad church siege overpowered a policeman while being led to questioning, sparking a jail mutiny that killed six police, including a general, and 11 inmates.



Iraq security forces are searching for dozens of escaped prisoners, including several al Qaeda members who are on death row.

Prisoners broke out of jail in Iraq's northern city of Tikrit on Thursday night, reported CNN. An Interior Ministry official said 110 prisoners are still at large. More than half of them are either accused or convicted terrorists with ties to al Qaeda. He also said at least 33 of them are on death row.

But adviser to the governor of Salahedeen province Mohammed Ibrahim gave different figure, CNN continued. Ibrahim said 76 are still on the run and 16 are death row inmates associated with al Qaeda. He also said security forces have captured two of the escapees.

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Other news outlets have also reported different numbers for those who escaped and those with al Qaeda ties.

According to Al Jazeera, unidentified armed men attacked the prison on Thursday. Accounts of the jailbreak differ, but some say the men attacked from the outside while inmates seized weapons from guards inside. A police lieutenant-colonel said a suicide bomber detonated a car bomb at the gate of the jail before the attack began.

Iraqi officials are also now saying that the escape was possible because of inside assistance. The Interior Ministry said there had been "clear collusion" between some of the guards and inmates, noted the Associated Press. Weapons had been brought into the prison during family visits and wardens had left locks inside the facility open.

"The cells were not searched for a long period, which indicates more deliberate negligence that led to this incident," the ministry said in a statement released late Friday.

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