Taliban militants battled their way into a prison in northwest Pakistan today, freeing close to 400 prisoners, including at least 20 described by police as "very dangerous" insurgents, authorities and the militants said. The raid by more than 100 fighters was a dramatic display of the strength of the insurgency gripping the nuclear-armed country. The escaped prisoners may now rejoin the fight, giving momentum and a propaganda boost to a movement that has killed thousands of Pakistani officials and ordinary citizens since 2007.
The attackers, armed with automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades, stormed the prison before dawn in the city of Bannu close to the Afghan border, said a police officer. They used explosives and hand grenades to knock down the main gates and two walls, said Bannu prison superintendent Zahid Khan. "They were carrying modern and heavy weapons," he said. "They fired rockets."