Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad was attacked on Sunday by a powerful force of al-Qaeda ‘militants. Suicide bombers drove cars filled with explosives to the prison gates and then blew themselves up. The breach in the walls enabled the rest of the group to enter the compound.
The attack was supported with rocket-propelled grenades and mortar fire which, according to the Associated Press, killed at least 25 prison guards. Estimates as to the actual numbers of prisoners freed range from 500 to 1000. What is not in doubt is that most of the escapees were members of al-Quaeda, some of them holding senior positions in the organization.
The operation was carried out with military precision and had obviously taken many months of planning. As the convicts were being released, other gunmen were engaging the security forces sent from Baghdad. It was reported that many of the group who entered the prison were wearing suicide vests. But very few of the gunmen were actually killed, only four according to AFP.
Hakim Al-Zamili, a senior member of parliament, said: “The number of escaped inmates has reached 500, most of them were convicted senior members of al-Qaeda and had received death sentences.” He added: “The security forces arrested some of them, but the rest are still free.”
While Abu Ghraib was under attack, another prison was attacked in Taji, about 20 Km north of Baghdad. In this instance, the guards were able to prevent the prisoners from escaping; 16 soldiers and six gunmen were killed. At about the same time a car bomb exploded in the city of Mosul killing 22 solders and three civilians. Yet another attack, also in Mosul, claimed the lives of four policemen. According to the monitoring group, Iraq Body Count, 600 people have been killed by terrorists in the past three weeks!
If the name “Abu Ghraib” seems familiar, it’s probably because it is remembered for the publicly aired pictures of US soldiers abusing prisoners there 10 years ago.
Is Iraq a better place now 10 years later? Are the people happier and better off? Do you think some look back to the “good old days” of Saddam Hussein? Sound off in the comments feed below.
Photo Credit: rferl.org