Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Attacks on Iraqi prisons free al-Qaida operatives

BAGHDAD — Hundreds of extremists were feared to be on the run in Iraq on Monday after al-Qaida's affiliate in the country launched an assault on the Abu Ghraib prison, offering a fresh boost to the group's resurgent fortunes in Iraq.

Iraq's Interior Ministry said in a statement that an unspecified number of prisoners had escaped from Abu Ghraib but none from a second facility, Taji, that also came under assault. In Washington, U.S. officials closely monitoring the jailbreak said the number of escapees was thought to be 500 to 600, including a significant number of al-Qaida operatives.

The attacks killed dozens Sunday, including at least 25 members of the Iraqi security forces, Iraqi officials said. Insurgents fired mortar shells and detonated suicide and car bombs, drawing Iraqi forces into firefights that lasted more than an hour.

Members of the Iraqi parliament who said they had been briefed by security officials said the escapees included some top leaders of al-Qaida in Iraq, many of whom had been captured by U.S. troops.

Iraq's security forces set up checkpoints on highways leading west to Syria and Jordan and around Baghdad's airport to snare fugitives. Some prisoners were recaptured, Iraqi news media reported.

But even if the prisoners are recaptured, the scale of the attacks on the heavily guarded facilities reinforced an impression among many Iraqis that their security forces are struggling to cope with a resurgent al-Qaida since U.S. forces withdrew in 2011, taking with them much of the expertise and technology that had been used to hold extremists at bay.

There was no formal assertion of responsibility for the Sunday night assaults on the prisons, but they bore the hallmarks of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, and many extremist websites identified the attacks as the work of the Qaida-affiliated group.

The jailbreak coincided with a relentless wave of bombings blamed on the extremist group that has killed hundreds of civilians in recent months, returning Iraq to levels of violence not seen since the 2007 surge of U.S. troops.

At least 46 Iraqis died over the weekend in bombings that targeted cafes and mosques, bringing to more than 450 the number killed this month.

The gains of the surge are in jeopardy, said Aymenn al-Tamimi, a fellow with the Philadelphia-based Middle East Forum who monitors extremist activity in Iraq. "This is a significant milestone in the resurgence of al-Qaida in Iraq," he said. "A good deal of the progress achieved from 2006 onwards has essentially been undone now."

Guards stand at a cellblock in the renovated Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad in February 2009. Late-night attacks on the lockup and another prison in Iraq on Sunday killed dozens, Iraqi officials said.

Associated Press (2009)

Guards stand at a cellblock in the renovated Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad in February 2009. Late-night attacks on the lockup and another prison in Iraq on Sunday killed dozens, Iraqi officials said.

Attacks on Iraqi prisons free al-Qaida operatives 07/22/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 23, 2013 12:16am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Associated Press.

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Manahattan Casino choice causes political headache for Kriseman


    ST. PETERSBURG — Days before the mayoral primary, Mayor Rick Kriseman's decision to let a Floribbean restaurant open in Midtown's historic Manhattan Casino has caused political angst within the voting bloc he can least afford to lose: the black community.

    Last week Mayor Rick Kriseman chose a Floribbean restaurant concept to fill Midtown's historic Manhattan Casino. But that decision, made days before next week's mayoral primary, has turned into a political headache for the mayor. Many residents want to see the building's next tenant better reflect its cultural significance in the black community. [JAMES BORCHUCK   |   Times]
  2. Bucs talk social issues, protests at team meeting


    TAMPA — Each time Dirk Koetter walks through the door of his office at One Buc Place, he passes by the only jersey framed on his wall.

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans (13) wears custom cleats to represent Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality (RISE) as part of the NFL???‚??„?s "My Cause, My Cleats Campaign" before the start of a football game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, Calif., on Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016.
  3. UPS relocates express operations from St. Pete-Clearwater to TIA


    TAMPA — United Parcel Service Inc. is switching airports for its express air operations. Beginning in October, UPS will relocate from St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport to Tampa International Airport.

    Beginning in October, UPS will move from St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport to Tampa International Airport. [Associated Press file photo]

  4. St. Petersburg man shot in arm during home invasion robbery


    ST. PETERSBURG — One man was arrested on charges he shot another man in the arm while attempting to rob a home in what St. Petersburg police are calling a drug-related incident.

    John Alam, 25, faces charges of home invasion robbery, aggravated battery with a deadly weapon and possession of a firearm by a felon after deputies said he tried to rob a home Wednesday morning and ended up shooting someone. [Courtesy of Pinellas County Sheriff's Office]
  5. Bob Buckhorn, a mayor who knows what he wants, surveys constituents on what they want


    TAMPA — Focus has not been a problem — or really, even a question — during the six-plus years that Mayor Bob Buckhorn has been in office.

    Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn keeps a digital countdown clock in his office showing the days, hours. minutes and seconds until he is term-limited out of office on April 1, 2019. As of Wednesday, he had 584 days to go. [City of Tampa]