Hundreds of convicts, including senior members of al-Qaeda, broke out of Iraq’s Abu Ghraib jail as comrades launched a military-style assault to free them, authorities said on Monday.
No prisoners escaped from a simultaneous ambush on a different jail, but more than a dozen people were killed in each attack.
Separate attacks Monday on security forces killed dozens of others.
Suicide bombers drove cars packed with explosives to the gates of Abu Ghraib on the outskirts of Baghdad on Sunday night and blasted their way into the compound, while gunmen attacked guards with mortars and rocket-propelled grenades.
Other militants took up positions near the main road, fighting off security reinforcements sent from Baghdad as several militants wearing suicide vests entered the prison on foot to help free the inmates.
Ten policemen and four militants were killed in the ensuing clashes, which continued until Monday morning, when military helicopters arrived, helping to regain control.
By that time, hundreds of inmates had succeeded in fleeing Abu Ghraib, the prison made notorious a decade ago by photographs showing abuse of prisoners by US soldiers.
“The number of escaped inmates has reached 500, most of them were convicted senior members of al-Qaeda and had received death sentences,” Hakim Al-Zamili, a senior member of the security and defense committee in parliament, told Reuters.
“The security forces arrested some of them, but the rest are still free.”
One security official told Reuters on condition of anonymity: “It’s obviously a terrorist attack carried out by al-Qaeda to free convicted terrorists.”
A simultaneous attack on another prison, in Taji, around 12 miles north of Baghdad, followed a similar pattern, but guards managed to prevent any inmates escaping. Sixteen soldiers and six militants were killed.
Meanwhile Monday a suicide bombing attack in the northern city of Mosul occurred early Monday, killing at least 22 soldiers and three passers-by.
The bomber drove a vehicle packed with explosives up to a military convoy in the eastern Kokchali district of Mosul, 240 miles north of Baghdad, before blowing himself and his car up.
“A suicide bomber was following the convoy and when it stopped in the middle of road, he detonated his vehicle right behind it,” said a policeman at the scene who declined to be identified because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
A separate attack in western Mosul killed four policemen, police said.
It was not clear who was behind the blasts, but suicide bombings are the hallmark of al-Qaeda, which has been regrouping in Mosul, Iraq’s third-largest city.
(Reuters, AFP, Al-Akhbar)