13 Iraqi police killed in Tikrit prison clashes
Clashes killed at least 13 policemen at a prison in the Iraqi city of Tikrit that was seized by militants but has since been retaken by security forces, officials said on Friday.
And at least 83 prisoners were able to escape during the unrest, the officials said.
The violence at the prison comes after al-Qaeda’s Iraqi front group announced a campaign to regain territory and said it aimed to help its jailed members escape.
Salaheddin provincial deputy governor Ahmed Abdul Jabbar told AFP by telephone that the Tikrit prison had been retaken from militants who seized it on Thursday night, but that 83 prisoners escaped.
A hospital official in Tikrit, the ancestral home of slain dictator Saddam Hussein, said 13 police were killed and 34 wounded in the violence.
A source in the Salaheddin police command meanwhile said 15 policemen and seven prisoners were killed, and put the number of escaped prisoners at about 100.
“We took control of the prison, and the gunmen handed over their weapons,” the official said.
Accounts differed on the specifics of the unrest, but it appears militants attacked from outside the prison, while inmates may have seized weapons from guards inside.
A police lieutenant colonel said Thursday that a suicide bomber detonated a car bomb at the gate of the prison, after which it was assaulted by gunmen.
And a traffic police lieutenant colonel who was near the scene of the attack said militants blew up a portion of the prison fence, and that between 30 and 40 prisoners were able to escape.
A police colonel meanwhile said that riots broke out in the prison, while witnesses in the area said prisoners seized the guards’ weapons, and that more than 100 of them escaped and fought security forces in the surrounding area.
The tactics reportedly employed in the assault were reminiscent of those used in attacks in July and August.
Gunmen attempted to use bombs to breach a prison gate in Taji, north of Baghdad, on Aug. 1, after using similar tactics on the anti-terrorism directorate in the capital the day before in an attack the interior ministry said was an attempt to free inmates.
Al-Qaeda’s front group the Islamic State of Iraq said in July that it was launching a “new military campaign aimed at recovering territory.”
An earlier message posted on jihadist forums said the ISI would begin targeting judges and prosecutors, and try to help its prisoners break out of jails.