Bannu jailbreak: TTP had inside information, says commander

Published: April 16, 2012

A militant commander who helped plan an assault on Bannu jail on Sunday which freed nearly 400 prisoners said his group had inside information. PHOTO: REUTERS/FILE

BANNU: A militant commander who helped plan an assault on Bannu jail on Sunday which freed nearly 400 prisoners said his group had inside information. 

Pakistan’s Taliban movement, which is close to al Qaeda, said it was behind the brazen assault by militants armed with rocket-propelled grenades and AK-47 assault rifles.

A police official said most of those who escaped from the jail in Bannu were militants, including one on death row for trying to assassinate former president Pervez Musharraf.

“We had maps of the area and we had complete maps and plans of the jail as well,” the commander, a senior member of the Taliban, told Reuters.

“All I have to say is we have people who support us in Bannu. It was with their support that this operation was successful.”

It was not possible to independently verify that account.

But the inspector general for prisons in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Arshad Majeed, did not rule out collusion.

“It is possible that the attackers had help from the inside. We cannot confirm that but we are investigating to see what happened,” he said.

The prison break could be a psychological blow to security forces following repeated government assertions that security crackdowns have weakened militant groups.

The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) is seen as the biggest threat, staging suicide bombings and attacks on military compounds.

The Bannu attackers arrived in a convoy of vehicles, blocking off all access points to the jail before firing rocket-propelled grenades at the black, metal gates of the prison and forcing their way in.

They moved through the prison quickly facing little resistance until they found Adnan Rasheed, who took part in one of the attempts to kill Musharraf, and then freed him and 383 others.

“We had set one hour as the target time for our mission. This included entering the jail, breaking out our people, getting back into our vehicles and reaching a safe spot,” said the commander, who asked not to be named.

Citing preliminary investigations into the prison break, Majeed said 150 guards were supposed to be on duty when the militants struck, but only 36 were.

Even the ones that showed up to work were poorly equipped to deal with the onslaught by dozens of militants.

Standing outside the prison, where over 900 were held before the escape, constable Firdous Khan showed a Reuters reporter the only AK-47 assault rifle magazine he had.

“This emptied out pretty quickly. Then I was out,” he said.

The Taliban commander, based in North Waziristan said 150 fighters, including foreigners, launched the prison assault after months of training.

“We spent 20 million rupees ($220,000) on this mission,” he said.

Police officials said 76 escapees were now back in custody.

One of them, Zahir Shah, 29, described the chaos following the attack and why he decided to reject freedom after escaping.

“They took us with them to the main gate. Outside there were many cars. I think 20 cars in all. They shoved me into one of the vehicles and drove off really fast,” he said as he trembled outside the prison before turning himself in.

“I could be out in a few years for good behaviour. I don’t want to ruin my chances.”

According to sources, intelligence agencies had informed the concerned authorities that some terrorists are planning to carry out a terrorist attack in Kohat and the surrounding areas of Pakistan Air Force (PAF) base, Kohat Cantonment, Lachi Police Station and Bannu Jail to free imprisoned terrorists.

Sources said that the information was shared on January 5 this year.

Reader Comments (22)

  • Ahmed Pasha
    Apr 16, 2012 - 7:44PM

    Legendary break! These incompetent armymen and policemen can’t do nothing! What is next? Surrendering the whole country???

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  • Naveed Alam Khattak
    Apr 16, 2012 - 7:48PM

    This is a real shock for those people who supports the Army & Govt. People like me are losing hope. Govt cannot satisfy the people that either the Jail was in abandoned area or near the tribal areas or near the border of Afghanistan. Afghan border is very far from this area. Even if you want to go to North Waziristan you need to cross the Bannu city and if you want to go to S. Waziristan you need to cross Lakki Marwat and DI Khan. At the other end there is Karak District. If they have adopted any other uncommon route then it was not possible for them to reach N.Waziristan in 4-5 hours, which is nearest from this location. They could become an easy target if someone have followed them and targeted.
    In response to my earlier comments one of the commentators replied that Army could not used choppers in civilian.
    The good thing is that this Jail is not in civilian area. This is an open area, no civil house is there near to the jail. There is a hopital and Bannu Board building on the other sides which are also away.

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  • sars
    Apr 16, 2012 - 8:43PM

    Good planning and execution. Almost military precision (and level of ) funding. Helped by a combination of corruption/negligence and/or collusion of our authorities. Apparently the only way to deliver justice to these beasts is the drone strikes

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  • DB
    Apr 16, 2012 - 8:46PM

    @Naveed Alam Khattak:
    Cobras cannot start attacking vehicles just based on assumptions in the middle of the night. It could lead to civilian casualties and Close Air Support needs the blessings of ground spotters and Forward Air Controllers. In either case, army was not informed of the raid by the police.

    But of course, army is not blameless. It should be their job to protect settled areas. Problem is that their is not enough funding for foolproof security as all static targets can be attacked. Unlike the Americans, we cannot create concrete bunkers and call them “Green Zone” and sit inside them all day long. the real solution is going to be a combination of negotiations and coercion, not civil war.

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  • Apr 16, 2012 - 8:50PM

    @Ahmed Pasha: did u forgot when 470 inmates at a prison in southern Afghanistan escaped through a tunnel hundreds of metres long which was dug from outside the jail. and ur NATO, ISAF were guarding that jail.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-south-asia-13184920

    what was ur stance at that time??

    and at that time Taliban also got help from inside, maybe NATO soldiers sold out the information
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-south-asia-13199655

    Stop Army bashing u people only can go after small prey’s

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  • Apr 16, 2012 - 8:54PM

    @sars:
    @sars:
    what happened to ur so-called “Green Zone” yesterday, all u could do was to throw blame at Pakistan?
    what happened to u when 2 months ago ur Embassy was targeted and ISAF headquarters were under attack ?

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  • Apr 16, 2012 - 8:57PM

    I m still concerned how taliban breached into Green Zone yesterday and the 2 months ago, security laps happen everywhere…Recommend

  • ather khan
    Apr 16, 2012 - 9:00PM

    i don’t blame army, but media and civil govt. they have constantly bashing army for being anti-pahktun, anti-baloch etc. as a result army is not free to conduct operation. when there is an emergency you need to do drastic measures. and our army is not in position to do that for media.

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  • Human
    Apr 16, 2012 - 9:02PM

    Their is always an internal hand, but we lost the opportunity to catch those who came to realease their fellows

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  • Apr 16, 2012 - 9:19PM

    @Human:
    but those are criticizing dont wanna remember their mistakes and security laps

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  • Jawad U Rahman
    Apr 16, 2012 - 10:31PM

    Isn’t this a violation of our sovereignty? Where is the DPC and its supporters (PTI, JI etc) in taking out nationwide rallies and dharnas to condemn this incident? So, DPC does not believe in seeing the clear and present danger, it wants all of us to believe the invisible ‘saazish’ behind every thing.

    Incidentally, this statement from the TTP commander should deflate all arguments about innocent-tribals-only-peaceful-foreigners-only-in-North-Waziristan-hence-no-need-of-an-operation:

    “The Taliban commander, based in North Waziristan said 150 fighters, including foreigners, launched the prison assault after months of training.”

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  • Kmr
    Apr 17, 2012 - 12:33AM

    @Pakistan politics:
    escaping thru secret tunnel is same as people coming in 20 cars and walking through main gate by blasting it.. and freeing almost every prisoners….. spent 2 hours in this adventure does not cost even a single live from Paksitani security force….?

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  • DB
    Apr 17, 2012 - 12:42AM

    @Jawad U Rahman:
    Why are you concerned for sovereignty now? Liberals sold that out 2 days after 9/11 when Pakistan was handed over to NATO as supply depot. Now, it’s a free for all.

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  • Mirza
    Apr 17, 2012 - 1:30AM

    The terrorists had inside info, no it is not possible. I am shocked!

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  • bangash
    Apr 17, 2012 - 2:10AM

    @Pakistan politics
    Your GHQ colleagues are always more concerned about their perks and welfare than the damage their policies and incompetence is causing the country. It doesn’t matter what happens in Afghanistan or Timbuktu, these militants are the creation of the army’s policy of strategic depth and they are destroying Pakistan.

    Now go back and report this to your Commandant.

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  • Mirza
    Apr 17, 2012 - 2:18AM

    Taliban and Jihadist are not giving us billions of $$ so it is not a violation of our sovereignty. It would only be a violation of our sovereignty when non-Muslims who gave us most of our military hardware and lots of aid kill some even by mistake.

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  • Naseer
    Apr 17, 2012 - 2:37AM

    I won’t be surprised if I hear the insurgents took over the president house and GHQ and our governments has taken NOTICE of the breach. These NOTICES WITHOUT ANY ACTION are taking our country towards a total disaster.

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  • Uza Syed
    Apr 17, 2012 - 2:38AM

    TTP and all those like these or sympathisers and supporters of TTP must be eradicated completely, it’s a pest and if not destryed will destroy us. Pakistan and Pakistanis, please wake up these TTP are not friends no matter how much we strtch our imagination. They are our enemies, worse than we ever encountered in our history; unite and finish them off and do it fast. We and our religion and belief is threatened by TTP and all of us would be much better off without them or any remanents of these enemies.

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  • Pashtun voice
    Apr 17, 2012 - 3:47AM

    So it took 1 hour for them to do this operation in more than 20 vehicles in the centre of Bannu and no one even chased them?

    I dont know if i want to laugh or cry.

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  • Amjad
    Apr 17, 2012 - 4:21AM

    @Ahmed Pasha: So when westerners allow jail breaks, you don’t call it incompetence but when criminals with foreign funding do the same in Pakistan it is incompetence? It is indeed regrettable that criminals escaped but I hope that the police and military learn from this and tighten security. After all there has been a noticeable decrease in such acts in Pakistan over the last year since the public has actively helped in defeating these foreign supported criminals.

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  • Umar
    Apr 17, 2012 - 4:29AM

    Why is Pakistani military supporting the terrorists in North Waziristan?

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  • Jawad U Rahman
    Apr 17, 2012 - 2:57PM

    @DB:
    Because, my dear, unlike you it bothers me when these fanatics are running over our country and your Kaptaan and others of his ilk are busy schmoozing with the very architects of the disaster that is the present day Pakistan (read DPC). By continuing to blame US, India, Israel and everybody else – and ignoring the threat within – we have emboldened the TTP to a level that they can stage operations like this. This is not a liberal vs conservative question. An enemy that kills 40,000 of your compatriots, should not deserve your sympathy regardless whether you are a liberal or conservative. Unless, of course, you are one of them !

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