Assault on Iraq prisons kill at least 20
22 July 2013, 17:35
Baghdad - Militants attacked two Iraqi prisons including the notorious Abu
Ghraib in a bid to free inmates, killing 20 security force members in fierce
all-night clashes, officials said on Monday.
The co-ordinated attacks on the prisons in Taji, north of Baghdad, and Abu
Ghraib, west of the Iraqi capital, were launched on Sunday night and lasted for
around 10 hours, they said.
A police colonel said seven inmates escaped from Abu Ghraib during the
clashes but were later arrested, while lawmakers and jihadists claimed that
thousands of prisoners were freed.
"Between 500 and 1,000 prisoners escaped, mostly members of the
al-Qaeda network, from the Abu Ghraib prison," Hakem al-Zamli, a member
of parliament's security and defence committee, said on Sunday's
"It cannot be tolerated," he said. "... Those proven negligent in the prison's administration must be held accountable."
Officials said at least 20 members of the security forces were killed in the
attacks on Taji prison and on Abu Ghraib, a facility notorious for abuses
committed by US forces against Iraqi detainees in 2004.
Forty security force members were wounded.
It was not immediately clear how many of the assailants were killed, wounded
The attacks were launched at around 9:30 pm (18:30 GMT) on Sunday when the
gunmen fired mortar rounds at the prisons.
Four car bombs were detonated near the entrances to the prisons, while three
suicide bombers attacked Taji prison, said the police colonel.
Five roadside bombs also exploded near the prison in Taji.
Fighting continued throughout the night as the military deployed aircraft
and sent in reinforcements around the two facilities.
The situation was eventually brought under control on Monday morning,
according to the colonel.
"The security forces in the Baghdad Operations Command, with the
assistance of military aircraft, managed to foil an armed attack launched by
unknown gunmen against the ... two prisons of Taji and Abu Ghraib," the
interior ministry said in a statement late on Sunday night.
"The security forces forced the attackers to flee, and these forces are
still pursuing the terrorist forces and exerting full control over the two
regions," it said.
The attacks on the prisons came a year after al-Qaeda's Iraqi front group
announced it would target the Iraqi justice system.
"The first priority in this is releasing Muslim prisoners everywhere,
and chasing and eliminating judges and investigators and their guards,"
said an audio message attributed to the group's leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi,
in July last year.
Prisons in Iraq are periodically hit by escape attempts, uprisings and other