July 23, 2013
Al-Qaida militant group in Iraq on Tuesday claimed responsibility for recent coordinated attacks on two prisons near the capital Baghdad, the group said in a statement posted on an Islamist website.
“The mujahedeen (holy warriors) brigades, after months of preparations and planning, targeted two of the largest prisons of the Safavid government, which are Baghdad Central Prison (Abu Ghraib prison) and Taji prison,” said the statement signed by the self-styled Islamic State of Iraq and Levant.
Safavid is an Iranian dynasty (1499-1736) that established Shiite Islam as the official state religion and frequently fought the Sunni Islamic world.
The statement said that the attacks were a response to Iraq’s Shiite-led government’s “crimes” against Sunni Iraqis.
In July 2012, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the top leader of al-Qaida front in the country, launched a plan dubbed “Breaking the walls” aiming to release al-Qaida prisoners and assault judges and investigators.
According to the statement, al-Qaida fighters simultaneously attacked the gates and the outer walls of the two prisons, and blocked the nearby roads by seizing checkpoints and waging rocket and mortar barrages on military bases in the vicinity.
Fierce fight between the attackers and the guards of the prisons lasted for hours and resulted in “the freeing of hundreds of inmates, including more than 500 mujahedeen,” the statement said.
On Sunday night, dozens of gunmen stormed Taji and Abu Ghraib prisons, respectively north and west of Baghdad, in an attempt to free prisoners.
Hakim al-Zamili, a member of the parliament’s security and defense committee, said Monday that 500 to 1,000 inmates, most of them al-Qaida-linked prisoners, have escaped from Abu Ghraib prison.
“Many of them (Qaida prisoners) had been sentenced to death penalties,” al-Zamili said.
Iraqi officials did not say how many soldiers and policemen had been killed or wounded by the attacks, nor did they reveal how many prisoners had escaped from the prisons.
However, Hamid al-Mousawi, head of the reform department of the country’s Justice Ministry, said that at least 29 people were killed, including prison workers and inmates, and 39 others wounded.
Iraq is witnessing its worst eruption of violence in five years, which raised fears that the country is sliding back to a full- blown civil conflict that peaked in 2006 and 2007, when the monthly death toll sometimes exceeded 3,000.
This article was posted: Tuesday, July 23, 2013 at 11:04 am