Monday, April 16, 2012

Militants free hundreds in attack on Pakistan jail

Ghana MMA

Almost 400 prisoners have escaped from a prison in Pakistan after it was attacked by militants, officials say.

At least 100 Islamist militants launched the assault on the jail in north-west Pakistan at 01:00 (20:00 GMT Saturday).

Officials said some of the freed men were “dangerous” insurgents, including an inmate on death row for trying to kill ex-President Pervez Musharraf.

The jail is located in Bannu, a town in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, which borders Pakistan’s volatile tribal areas.

On several occasions over the last year, the Pakistani Taliban have employed a similar tactic of using a large number of militants to attack a single site at the dead of night.

In the past it has been military outposts close to the Afghan border that were the target; this time it was even more audacious.

Police say the attackers went straight to the wing of the prison that housed death row inmates, including Adnan Rashid. He was a comparative rarity in Pakistan: a man convicted for his part in a militant plot.

Those responsible for years of attacks in Pakistan are seldom brought to book, and security failings are rarely fully acknowledged.

That is likely to be the case again with the attack on the prison in Bannu. It is yet another incident involving a supposedly secure compound that will make many wonder what, if anything is safe from the militants.

Pakistan’s Taliban said they carried out the attack, but the claim has not been verified.

“We attacked the Bannu prison and got our special members freed,” Ehsanullah Ehsan, a Taliban spokesman, told Agence France-Presse.

“In a couple of days when all of them have reached their designated places we will issue details about them. At the moment I cannot give you exact numbers.”

A spokesman quoted by the Reuters news agency said hundreds of inmates had been freed.
Officials described how militants in cars and pick-up trucks entered the complex shooting and throwing grenades.

A total of 384 prisoners were freed in the attack, the Information Minister of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, Mian Iftikhar Hussain, said.

He described at least 20 of the prisoners as very dangerous, and that Adnan Rashid, a former member of the air force sentenced to death for an attack on Mr Musharraf, was among those who escaped.
Senior Bannu police official Iftikhar Khan told AFP that three police officers were wounded in the two-hour attack.

The BBC’s Aleem Maqbool in Islamabad says the attack is clearly a setback for Pakistan’s security forces, who over the last year have gained considerable ground against militants in the north-west of the country.

The Taliban carried out an audacious jail raid near Kandahar in Afghanistan in April last year, freeing at least 470 prisoners, including Taliban commanders and fighters.

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