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14 prisoners escape north Iraq prison: police
by Staff Writers
Mosul, Iraq (AFP) Sept 1, 2011

Fourteen prisoners charged with "terrorism" escaped from prison through a tunnel in the northern city of Mosul on Thursday, security officials said, in the latest jailbreak in Iraq.

"Thirty-five prisoners tried to escape from a prison in Al-Faisaliyah" in central Mosul, said Colonel Mohammed al-Juburi of Nineveh provincial police.

Security forces "arrested 21 of them, but 14 others were able to escape from the prison," Juburi said.

All 35 were charged with terrorism-related offenses, he said, adding that an open-ended curfew was imposed on Mosul after the jailbreak.

"The prisoners dug an 80-metre (yard) tunnel to reach the bank of the (Tigris) river," Nineveh operations chief Lieutenant General Hassan Karim said, adding that the escapees "received help from inside and outside the prison."

The jail is guarded by 150 police and nine officers, he said.

He also confirmed that two prisoners were wounded during the arrests.

Dr Mohammed Salem had said earlier on Thursday that City Hospital, where he works in Mosul, had received two prisoners with bullet wounds to their legs.

An interior ministry official confirmed that 35 prisoners had attempted to escape in Mosul, but that 21 of them were apprehended.

The US military helped Iraqi authorities in the search for the escaped prisoners with helicopters and other surveillance aircraft, said Colonel Brian Winski, commander of 4th Advise and Assist Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division.

The inmates who escaped were Iraqis from low-level cells with links to Al-Qaeda's local affiliate, Winski told reporters in Washington via video link from Iraq.

"None of them were foreign fighters. None of them were high-level leaders," he said.

The prison was a "transit detention facility" and not a site where inmates were held over a long period, Winski said.

"The search is still on for those few that do remain at large, and I'm quite confident, again, with some assistance from us, that they will find them," he said.

Jailbreaks and prison unrest are relatively common in Iraq.

Officials said on August 6 that four prisoners and a guard were killed in clashes at a prison in the central city of Hilla, during which eight inmates escaped.

Six police and 11 inmates were killed in a Baghdad jail mutiny in May, while 12 suspected Al-Qaeda members escaped from prison in the southern city of Basra in mid-January. At least two of the Basra escapees have been recaptured.


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