x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Hundreds of prisoners still at large after escaping Pakistan prison

More than 150 Islamist militants stormed the prison on Sunday outside the town of Bannu near the tribal region where Taliban and Al Qaeda-linked fighters have carved out their stronghold.

PESHAWAR, PAKISTAN // Dozens of prisoners who fled a jail in north-western Pakistan after armed militants attacked it have returned but hundreds remained at large yesterday, an official said.

More than 150 Islamist militants stormed the prison on Sunday outside the town of Bannu near the tribal region where Taliban and Al Qaeda-linked fighters have carved out their stronghold.

"Fifty-three prisoners out of the total 384, who had escaped the jail, have returned voluntarily while 11 others were arrested," the Bannu police official, Iftikhar Khan, said.

Most of those who escaped were militants, including 34 condemned prisoners. A woman prisoner was one of those who surrendered.

The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militant group claimed responsibility for the attack, which their spokesman said was launched to get their special members freed.

The attack started at 1am and continued for two hours, with militants in cars and pickup trucks shooting and lobbing grenades to force their way into the prison, which had some 944 prisoners.

A large number of militants had recently been moved to the jail from nearby Kohat and Lakki Marwat prisons, which are being converted into centres to rehabilitate former insurgents.

A former member of the air force sentenced to death for an attack on former president Pervez Musharraf was among the escaped militants, according to officials.

Adnan Rasheed was convicted after a bomb planted under a bridge in Rawalpindi near Islamabad in December 2003 exploded moments after the passing of Musharraf's motorcade. His appeal is pending before the Supreme Court.