Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 19 August 2019

Iraq sacks Baghdad police chief after prisoner escape

Eight of the 15 drug suspects who broke out on Saturday have been arrested, interior ministry says

Iraqi policemen walk outside the river police headquarters by the Tigris in the centre of the capital Baghdad on May 10, 2019. AFP
Iraqi policemen walk outside the river police headquarters by the Tigris in the centre of the capital Baghdad on May 10, 2019. AFP

Iraq's interior ministry has sacked Baghdad's police chief and other senior officers over the escape from prison of 15 drug trafficking suspects, eight of whom have since been caught.

The ministry said it had formed a committee to investigate how the detainees managed to escape from a police station in eastern Baghdad on Saturday.

“Two of the suspects were caught on Saturday night and the other six were captured on Sunday morning,” interior ministry representative Saad Maan said in a statement.

The search for the seven other suspects was continuing, Mr Maan said, without providing any details on where the recaptured men were being held.

The ministry said Baghdad's police chief, Major General Ali Jasim Al Ghariry, the head of Al Russafa police department in the capital's east, Maj Gen Haitham Ali Hassan, and the head of the Bab Al Sheikh police station, Gen Bassam Hussein Ramadhan, had all been fired.

The 15 men, who were suspected of being part of a drug trafficking network, escaped custody on Saturday after reportedly "insulting the police and then beating them".

A video purportedly filmed at the station and widely shared on social media shows men in civilian clothing running through a door without any apparent resistance.

Lack of good governance has been central to Iraq’s problems. Transparency International ranks Iraq 168th out of 180 countries on its Corruption Perception Index.

Security in prisons around the country has become a critical issue. Cases of prisoners escaping are not uncommon, whether by bribery or force. Many prisons have been rendered unusable by damage from repeated conflicts.

The sale and use of drugs in Iraq has increased in recent years, particularly among the youth, creating a public health crisis. Authorities regularly announce the arrests of traffickers, which put additional pressure on prison services and the police.

In addition, Iraq is currently holding thousands of Iraqis and foreigners suspected of joining ISIS in overcrowded prisons as they await trial.

Updated: August 4, 2019 07:44 PM

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