DERA ISMAIL KHAN / BANNU / PESHAWAR: More than 200 heavily armed Taliban militants travelling in several vehicles attacked the Central Jail in Bannu, Southern District of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, releasing 384 prisoners in a pre-dawn assault on Sunday, officials said.
The Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP) claimed responsibility for raiding the jail. TTP spokesperson Asimullah Mehsud told The Express Tribune from an undisclosed location that they (TTP) attacked the jail with hundreds of fighters. “The purpose was to free some of our men”, he said, adding “we attacked with 150 Fidaeen (suicide bombers) and took over the area for more than two hours.”
Four police officials who were injured in the attack were taken to the District Headquarter Hospital (DHQ). Another policeman on guard at the main gate of the police station said that dozens of the militants were in vehicles and hundreds of them were on foot carrying Ak-47s and rocket launchers. “The gate was rooted out after one fired a rocket at it” he explained. Residents of the area said militants had destroyed the boundary wall to aid in their escape.
A large number of militants had recently been moved to the jail from neighbouring Kohat and Lakki Marwat prisons, which are being converted into centres to rehabilitate former insurgents, the security official said.
Top militants freed
A senior official of the Township Police station told The Express Tribune that the FIR registered says that hundreds of militants attacked the Bannu central jail around 1:15am and 384 prisoners were released. He said, ‘Some of them are men that are most wanted’.
Explaining the category of the militants that managed to escape, the official said there were 20 men who were facing death sentences and are very dangerous.
‘Where is Adnan?’
Officials believe that the attacker’s main aim was to release Adnan Rashid, a former junior technician of the Pakistan Air Force (PAF), allegedly involved in plotting the murder of former president Parvez Musharraf. Inspector General Police, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (IG) Akbar Khan Hoti, said that the whole plan seemed to have been for the release of the top militant.
A police official from the central jail, on condition of anonymity said that the militants entered the premises of the jail after firing hand grenades and rockets and the only question they asked was “Where is Adnan?”
“They spoke different languages” he claimed, adding that “their attire was typical to the Taliban with boots, grown hair and loaded with arms.”
An investigative officer said that there was English and Arabic jihadi literature recovered from the cell where Adnan was kept, along with other important evidence. He refrained from giving further details.
Adnan Rashid joined PAF as a junior technician in 1997. Security officials apprehended him from Balochistan in 2004 in connection with a plot to assassinate Musharraf. Sources said that he was shifted from Kohat to Bannu Jail some eigth months ago. Amongst the prisoners is also Aijaz, a militant who had previously managed to escape from the same jail. The names of the rest of the ‘most wanted’ could not be ascertained immediately.
Rehman Malik suspects inside job
Federal Interior Minister Rehman Malik suspected the involvement of certain prison officials in the attack, Express News reported.
Speaking to media in Islamabad, the interior minister added that the attack was due to security failure and that a high level enquiry will be conducted in this regard.
“We will find out about who had kept Adnan Rashid in Bannu jail,” Malik added.
The minister also announced a meeting of Inspector(s) General Jail from all over the country, on Wednesday, to discuss improvements in prison security in the country.
Malik also said that cellular service providers would be asked to block their service inside prisons. A mobile call traced to a Quetta jail revealed correspondence between banned outfits, Sipah-e-Sahaba and Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA).