A raid of Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison freed hundreds of convicts including Al Qaeda officials. Sunday’s well-organized attack, lead by militants trying to free their comrades, succeeded in overwhelming security and guards.
The raid is seen as a major victory for a growing militant movement in Iraq. Since Shi’ite leadership was put in place by US forces following the invasion of Iraq, militant Sunni Muslims have been growing in number.
An increase in recent times of bombings and suicide attacks on civilians in Iraq makes this clear. Last month was the bloodiest in Iraq this year.
The attack on the Abu Ghraib prison began Sunday night with Al Qaeda militants driving explosive-packed cars into the outside gates, New York Times reports. After these bombs went off, gunmen came up behind to provide cover. Some were heavily armed, sporting rocket-propelled grenade launchers and mortars.
Guerrillas wearing suicide bomb vests then rushed into the openings, creating exits in prison cell walls for inmates to escape through. The armed militants outside Abu Ghraib prison set up along the main road and held off forces being sent from Baghdad.
Fighting continued Sunday night as police and guards tried to hold off the attackers. Finally, army helicopters arrived to help regain control of the prison, reports Sky News. Clashes between Iraq security and militants did not end until Monday morning.
Officials in Iraq say that as many as 500 inmates were able to break out of the prison. Most of the escaped inmates were senior members of Al Qaeda, sentenced to death.
Ten policemen and four militants were killed in the attack. Some forces were able to arrest convicts trying to escape.
Another attack happened at a prison in Taji, located outside Baghdad. The raid came at the same time as the one at Abu Ghraib and seemed to follow a similar pattern. Forces in Taji were able to repel the militant fighters after losing sixteen soldiers.
The prison in Abu Ghraib made international headlines ten years ago when guards there were exposed for abusing and torturing prisoners.
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