500 Prisoners Bust Out of Abu Ghraib
Most escapees were high-ranking al-Qaeda men
By Ruth Brown, Newser Staff
Posted Jul 22, 2013 6:20 PM CDT
Guards stand at a cell block at the renovated Abu Ghraib prison.   (AP Photo/Karim Kadim, File)

(Newser) – Some 500 prisoners, most of them high-ranking al-Qaeda members, were busted out of Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison (yes that Abu Ghraib prison, but the Iraqis are back in charge now) in a violent and explosive jail break last night. Suicide bombers raided the prison with cars full of explosives, blasting their way inside the gates while others fired mortars and grenades at guards, Reuters reports. Ten cops and four militants were killed in the violence, which lasted until this morning, when military helicopters were called in. There was a simultaneous attack on nearby Taji prison, in which 16 soldiers and six militants died, but no prisoners escaped.

The attack is not entirely a surprise: al-Qaeda announced that freeing prisoners was its top priority exactly a year ago, in a campaign called "Breaking the Walls," the AP reports. "This big security failure shows that the top security commanders have failed to sort out any solutions for the ongoing security deterioration," says a local lawmaker. "The terrorists, not the security forces, are now taking the initiative." A manhunt for the escapees is now underway, though one lawmaker tells AP that many have already been been captured or killed.

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