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A Pakistani policeman. Photo: EPA

More than 230 prisoners escape after Taliban attack on Pakistan prison

At least 12 people killed and seven others wounded in jailbreak


Taliban insurgents released hundreds of prisoners, including hardline militants, in a brazen assault on the central jail in northwest Pakistan that was bombarded with mortars and rocket-propelled grenades.

At least 13 people - six police, four prisoners, two attackers and one civilian - were killed in the overnight assault, which triggered a three-hour gun battle between security forces and militants disguised in police uniforms.

"A total of 243 prisoners have escaped, six of them were later arrested by police," he said, adding that "30 among the escaped prisoners were hardcore militants".

The attack targeted the Central Prison in Dera Ismail Khan, a city in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, close to the lawless tribal regions bordering Afghanistan where Taliban and al-Qaeda-linked insurgents are active.

Militants were firing rockets at the jail and I also heard gunfire from inside the building
Police official

Jadoon said militants had planted dozens of explosive devices in the jail and 14 of them had so far been defused.

"Police and other law enforcing agencies are busy in clearing the jail," he said.

Authorities have imposed a curfew in the city and asked the residents to stay at home.

"Through media, we appeal to the people to stay at homes. It is to avoid any damages if army, police and paramilitary take any action," he added. Jadoon said around 50 to 60 militants managed to enter the jail as others fired rockets from outside.

"First they destroyed a police armoured vehicle parked at the front gate," Jadoon said, adding that two policemen were killed in this rocket attack.

The ambush appeared to be an attempt to free several militants held in the prison, a security official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The jail holds up to 5,000 prisoners including some 300 militants involved in attacks on security forces and sectarian killings, he added.

The Taliban later claimed responsibility for the attack.

“Some 150 Taliban, including 60 suicide bombers, attacked the Central Prison and managed to free about 300 prisoners,” Taliban spokesman Shahidullah Shahid told AFP by telephone.

However Pakistani authorities did not verify the claim.

Residents in Dera Ismail Khan reported hearing loud blasts and gunfire, and said the electricity supply to several parts of the city had been suspended.

A local police official said he saw militants carrying rocket launchers and firing at the jail.

“Militants were firing rockets at the jail and I also heard gunfire from inside the building,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

He said security forces had cordoned off the area around the prison where intelligence agency offices and the police headquarters are located.

Shaukat Yousafzai, spokesman for the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provincial government, confirmed the attack.

“The army has been called in to counter the militant attack,” Yousafzai said.

Pakistan is battling a Taliban-led domestic insurgency that has killed thousands of civilians and security personnel since 2007.

Washington considers the border tribal areas a major hub of Taliban and al-Qaeda militants plotting attacks on the West and in Afghanistan.

Later on Tuesday, members of both houses of parliament and the four provincial assemblies in Pakistan are to elect a new head of state, replacing outgoing President Asif Ali Zardari.