Up to 200 prisoners on the run after Iraq jailbreak
BAGHDAD // At least 30 prisoners and six policemen were killed in a riot and jailbreak in north-eastern Iraq on Saturday, and as many as 200 inmates including terrorism suspects are believed to have escaped.
There were conflicting reports from the incident at the Khalis prison in Diyala province, which was also claimed as an ISIL operation.
Brigadier General Saad Maan Ibrahim, an interior ministry spokesman, put the death toll at 36, including six police officers and 30 prisoners, and said 40 inmates escaped.
Provincial police officials and a medical official put the toll much higher, saying 51 inmates and 12 policemen were killed, while more than 200 inmates escaped.
Gen Ibrahim said a fight broke out among the prisoners and guards who went to investigate were overpowered and had their weapons taken.
Some of those who escaped were wanted on terrorism charges, he said.
Security forces cordoned off the area and were hunting for the escaped inmates.
The town of Khalis is about 80 kilometres north of Baghdad.
The local chapter of ISIL claimed a completely different account of the incident, describing it as a coordinated operation involving the use of multiple explosives outside the prison.
It said 30 members of the extremist group were among those who escaped.
Gen Ibrahim had denied there was an attack on the prison from outside and did not immediately respond to requests for comment on ISIL’s version of events, which was posted on militant websites.
Jailbreaks are common in Iraq and usually a result of assaults by militants seeking to free their comrades. The most stunning was in mid-2013, when militants carried out a carefully orchestrated attack with mortar shells and suicide bombers on Abu Ghraib prison, freeing more than 500 inmates.
Also on Saturday, a car bomb exploded in Baghdad’s central Karrada area, killing at least eight civilians and wounding 28.
Among the dead were pilgrims preparing for the commemoration this week of the death anniversary of Imam Mousa Al Kazim, a revered figure in Shiite Islam.
Thousands of pilgrims typically march to his shrine in northern Baghdad to commemorate his death in 8th century.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the bombing, but it bore the hallmarks of ISIL, which considers Shiites heretics.
ISIL and other extremist militant groups have carried near-daily attacks against the Iraq’s Shiite majority, government officials and security forces.
ISIL captured large chunks of territory in western and northern Iraq last year, plunging the country into its worst crisis since US troops left at the end of 2011.
* Associated Press
Updated: May 9, 2015 04:00 AM