Iraqi officials have accused the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) of being responsible for a violent prison break in Iraq that freed at least 30 inmates and left dozens of people dead.
The pro-ISIS Amaq News Agency reported that “a group of ISIS militants broke in to the prison from the outside using explosives, and managed to get into the prison’s weapon stores and free 30 inmates,” according to The Independent.
ISIS claimed responsibility for the prison break in a statement posted on jihadist forums, reported Al Arabiya News.
“Brothers inside the Khalis prison were able to coordinate with brothers outside the prison,” stated ISIS.
“Fifteen IEDs (improvised explosive devices) were detonated against army and police convoys and vehicles around the prison,” also said the group, adding, “Our brothers managed to take control of the weapons storage and attack the apostates, killing many… Thanks to God, more than 30 knights of the Islamic State were freed.”
Located in Diyala province about 50 miles northeast of Baghdad, the Al-Kahlis detention center reportedly housed around 300 people convicted of terrorism-related charges.
There were conflicting reports of how many people were killed and how many individuals escaped during the incident.
The Independent, quoting Iraqi officials, reported that 12 police officers were killed during the prison raid and 50 inmates were slaughtered while attempting to escape.
Meanwhile, Al Arabiya, citing Iraq’s interior ministry, reported that six guards and 30 detainees were killed. The news outlet said 40 inmates escaped.
“One of the prisoners seized a weapon from a guard. After killing him, the inmate headed up to the weapons storage and he seized more weapons,” reportedly said Brigadier Gen. Saad Maan, a spokesman for Iraq’s interior ministry.
“Clashes erupted inside. We lost a first lieutenant and five policemen, forty prisoners fled. Nine of them were held on terror charges and the rest for common crimes,” he added.
In January, Iraqi troops claimed that Diyala province, where the prison is located, had been liberated from ISIS with the help of the U.S.-led coalition that continues to target the jihadist group in Iraq and Syria.
Sporadic attacks have continued in the province since then.
“A mass break-out at Abu Ghraib prison in west Baghdad during which more than 500 inmates, including top Islamist militants, escaped in July 2013 is considered to be one of the key moments in the rise of [ISIS],” noted Al Arabiya.