Rebels attack Iraq jails,free over 500

Raids on Abu Ghraib,Taji leave 56 dead; violence elsewhere claims 25 more lives

Written by Associated Press | Baghdad | Published: July 23, 2013 2:17 am

Hundreds of Iraqi inmates escaped after insurgents armed with mortars and machine guns launched coordinated late-night assaults on two high-security prisons,sparking gun battles that left dozens of people dead,officials said.

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

Attacks elsewhere claimed at least 18 more lives on Monday,many of them soldiers,highlighting the rapidly deteriorating security conditions across Iraq.

The prisons in Abu Ghraib and Taji house thousands of prisoners,including convicted al-Qaida militants.

Exactly one year ago,al-Qaida’s Iraq arm launched a campaign called “Breaking the Walls” that made freeing its imprisoned members a top priority.

Police reported 15 soldiers were killed and 13 wounded in the Taji attack,along with six militants. Ten policemen were killed and 19 were wounded in Abu Ghraib,and also four militants. A total of 21 prisoners were killed and another 25 wounded during the attacks,according to Justice Ministry spokesman Wissam al-Firaiji.

Several officials,including lawmakers on parliament’s security and defense committee,said more than 500 inmates managed to escape from Abu Ghraib. There were no immediate reports of escapes from Taji.

A surge of violence across Iraq has killed more than 3,000 people since the start of April,and the assaults on the prisons laid bare the degree to which security has eroded in the country in recent months. The spike in bloodshed is intensifying fears of a return to the widespread sectarian killing that pushed the country to the brink of civil war after the 2003 US-led invasion.

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