An Al-Qaeda front group on Tuesday claimed responsibility for simultaneous raids on two Iraqi prisons and said more than 500 inmates had been set free, including senior militant leaders.
The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, which was formed earlier this year through a merger between Al-Qaeda's affiliates in Syria and Iraq, said it had carried out the attacks on Abu Ghraib and Taji jails after months of preparation.
“The mujahideen (holy warriors), after months of preparation and planning, targeted two of the largest prisons of the Safavid government,” said the statement, using a pejorative term for Shiites.
The statement, posted on jihadist forums, comes as security forces were Tuesday hunting for the escapees.
The attacks struck Abu Ghraib prison, west of Baghdad, and a prison in Taji, north of the capital, on Sunday night, though accounts differed as to whether inmates escaped from both sites, or just from Abu Ghraib.
A high-ranking security official told AFP on condition of anonymity that the escapees included high-ranking Al-Qaeda members, and that they will likely attempt to launch revenge attacks.
“Dark days are waiting for Iraq. Some of those who escaped are senior leaders of Al-Qaeda and the operation was executed for this group of leaders,” the official said.
“Those who escaped will work on committing acts of revenge, most of which might be suicide attacks,” he added.
(With AFP and Reuters)