Fifteen alleged drug traffickers escape Iraqi custody

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Iraq’s interior ministry announced several top policemen had been fired after 15 suspected members of a drug trafficking network escaped on Saturday from a police station in the capital.

“The defendants first insulted the police, then beat them and managed to escape” from the police station in eastern Baghdad, near the Shiite bastion of Sadr city, a security services official told AFP, on condition of anonymity.

Baghdad’s police chief and the heads of the al-Russafa police department in the capital’s east and the station where the suspects pulled off their escape were fired, the interior ministry said in a statement.

Prison security is a critical issue in Iraq, where escapes are not uncommon, whether by violence or bribery.

Iraq is the 12th most corrupt country in the world, according to Transparency International, and experts have pointed to high levels of corruption in its prisons.

During the years of insurrection and sectarian violence that followed the United States’ 2003 invasion, hundreds of extremists – the majority from al-Qaeda at the time – were able to escape from prison.

Iraq is currently seeking to try thousands of local and foreign extremists and terrorists while keeping them in overcrowded prisons.

Many prisons have been rendered unusable by repeated conflicts.

The sale and use of drugs has been booming for years in Iraq.

Authorities regularly announce the seizure of narcotics and the arrest of traffickers, particularly along the border with Iran.