Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 26 July 2014

Taliban stage mass jail escape

The main gate to the prison blown open by the Taliban (AP)

Dozens of Taliban armed with guns, grenades and bombs have attacked a prison in north west Pakistan, freeing more than 250 prisoners, including 25 dangerous terrorists.

The militants killed six policemen, six Shiite Muslim prisoners and two civilians during the attack in the town of Dera Ismail Khan. Fifteen policemen were wounded.

Around 70 militants arrived at the prison by car and motorcycle to begin the attack, which lasted for about four hours until most of the fighters escaped, said intelligence officials.

The attack began with a huge explosion that one resident, Sharafat Khan, said was so loud that "it rattled every house in the neighbourhood."

The militants then detonated dozens of smaller bombs at different points along the prison walls, causing them to collapse. They also fired rocket-propelled grenades and lobbed hand grenades.

Security forces engaged the attackers, who were chanting "God is great" and "Long live the Taliban." At least eight attackers disguised in police uniforms entered the prison and used megaphones to call out the names of specific prisoners for whom they were looking. The militants broke open the cells and freed 253 prisoners, including 25 "dangerous terrorists," said a police spokesman.

Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, saying 150 militants took part and around 300 prisoners were freed. Eight of the attackers wore suicide vests, and two detonated their explosives. Authorities captured nine prisoners who escaped and were searching for the others, as well as the militants.

A curfew has been imposed in Dera Ismail Khan and the nearby town of Tank while the search goes on. The town is near Pakistan's semi-autonomous tribal region, the main sanctuary for Taliban and al-Qaida in the country.

Officials received a letter threatening an attack on the prison, but they did not expect it so soon, said Khalid Abbas, head of the prison department.

In April 2012, Taliban armed with automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades battled their way into a prison in the city of Bannu in north west Pakistan, freeing close to 400 prisoners, including at least 20 described by police as "very dangerous" insurgents.

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