News Column

Pakistan Jail Calm in Aftermath of Mass Jailbreak

July 30, 2013

At least 13 people were killed and 248 inmates escaped during a Taliban assault on a prison in north-western Pakistan, security officials said Tuesday.

Local police chief Muhammad Nawaz said the prison was back under the control of the authorities.

Dozens of militants equipped with assault rifles and hand grenades Monday night stormed the central prison in Dera Ismail Khan city in the north-western province of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.

Gun battles lasted for several hours, a police official named Rehmatullah said.

"Those killed included five policemen, four prisoners, three civilians and one attacker, while 17 people were injured including 10 policemen and seven civilians," he said.

Nawaz said the attackers disguised as a marriage procession of several vehicles entered the city from the thinly populated Darban side near South Waziristan tribal district.

"At least 60 explosions were heard during the attack which lasted until morning before the militants were driven out by the security forces," he said.

He said 248 prisoners including about 15 high-profile militants had escaped. Police recaptured eight inmates.

An intelligence official said some 25 militants included in the category of "dangerous prisoners" were freed.

Nawaz also confirmed that all four prisoners killed by the militants were a from Shiite minority Muslim sect. He denied reports that a prisoner had been beheaded.

Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan spokesman Shahidullah Shahid claimed responsibility for the assault, saying it had involved more than 100 fighters including eight suicide bombers, two of whom detonated their explosives vest at the start of the attack.

Shahid claimed that about 300 militants were freed.

The province's inspector general for jails, Khalid Abbas, said the prison was one of the province's safest, but was designed to hold ordinary criminals, not terrorists or militants.

A prison department official said Monday about 250 of the more than 5,000 inmates in the prison belong to insurgent organizations including the Taliban.

Dera Ismail Khan is adjacent to South Waziristan, a tribal district near the Afghan border under the control of Pakistani Taliban. The city has suffered several bombings by Taliban and anti-Shiite extremist groups.

It was the second spectacular jailbreak by the rebels since last year, when Taliban freed about 400 prisoners in a similar assault at central jail Bannu in the same region.

The latest attack came just ahead of Tuesday's elections for a new president of Pakistan.

Islamist militants have stepped up their activities across Pakistan since a new government took office in early June.

Source: Copyright 2013 dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH

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