Nearly 400 escape in NW Pakistan jailbreak: officials

Agence France Presse

Posted at Apr 15 2012 11:23 AM | Updated as of Apr 15 2012 07:23 PM

PESHAWAR - Some 384 prisoners including militants escaped early Sunday from a jail in northwestern Pakistan after an attack by insurgents armed with guns, grenades and rockets, officials said.

More than 150 militants stormed the central prison outside the restive northwestern town of Bannu bordering the lawless tribal regions where Taliban and Al-Qaeda linked militants are active.

The attack started at around 1:00 am (2000 GMT) and continued for two hours, with militants in cars and pick-up trucks shooting and lobbing grenades to force their way into the prison, a senior security official told AFP.

"Some 384 prisoners, including some hardcore militants, have escaped during the attack," the official said.

"Preliminary information suggests that there were some 944 prisoners in the jail according to the tally late Saturday," he said.

A large number of militants had recently been moved to the jail from neighboring Kohat and Lakki Marwat prisons, which are being converted into internment centers to rehabilitate former insurgents, the official said.

A former member of the airforce sentenced to death for an attack on former president Pervez Musharraf was among the escaped militants, he said.

Police confirmed the attack but did not give any figures for the escapees, saying they were still investigating.

"There was an attack on the central jail and some prisoners escaped," senior Bannu police official Iftikhar Khan told AFP.

"At least three police officials were wounded in the attack," he said.

The attackers outnumbered the security forces at the prison and militants fled before reinforcements reached the jail.

Shafiq Ahmed, another police official said that security forces had imposed a cordon and a search operation was launched in the area.

"We have arrested four of the escaped prisoners," Ahmed told AFP.