Bannu jailbreak: Intelligence agencies say government was warned

By AFP
Published: April 17, 2012

On Sunday nearly 400 prisoners, including militants, escaped from a jail outside the town of Bannu after an attack by insurgents armed with guns, grenades and rockets. PHOTO: REUTERS

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s intelligence services warned the government three months ago about a possible attack on a prison in Bannu that was raided at the weekend, officials said Tuesday.

On Sunday nearly 400 prisoners, including militants, escaped from a jail outside the town of Bannu after an attack by insurgents armed with guns, grenades and rockets.

The intelligence information was conveyed to the government through a letter dated January 5, 2012, a copy of which was seen by AFP.

The letter identified Bannu jail as a target, along with the Pakistan Air Force base in Kohat, the Kohat cantonment and a police station.

“The intelligence information about the possible attacks was shared with the government in January 2012,” a senior intelligence official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

More than 150 heavily-armed militants stormed the prison near the lawless tribal region where Taliban and al Qaeda linked militants have carved out their stronghold.

Ehsanullah Ehsan, spokesman for the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militant group claimed responsibility for the attack, which he said was launched to free some of their top members.

A former member of the air force sentenced to death for an attempt to assassinate former president Pervez Musharraf was among the escaped militants, he said.

Adnan Rasheed was convicted after a bomb planted under a bridge in Rawalpindi near Islamabad in December 2003 exploded moments after Musharraf’s motorcade passed. His appeal is pending before the Supreme Court.

The intelligence official said Rasheed was the only high-profile militant in the jail and the attackers were heard shouting his name after breaking in.

He said the government had also been warned of future attacks which would not be confined to Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.

Another intelligence official said: “Intelligence agencies had intercepted that an attack on Bannu jail to free inmates was being planned. But the date and time of the attack was not known.”

He also said Kohat air base, cantonment and Bannu jail had been identified as targets and that law enforcement agencies had been informed.

Provincial authorities on Monday removed four senior officials over the jail break, which Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa’s information minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain blamed on “a total failure of intelligence agencies”.

Reader Comments (16)

  • Ahmed Hassan
    Apr 17, 2012 - 7:35PM

    3 months back??? In case you have not noticed, our security precautions go on high alert for 3 days only before coming back to normal until further attacks… incompetentRecommend

  • syed baqar ahsan
    Apr 17, 2012 - 7:57PM

    Chief Justice of Pakistan must order for the withdrawal of civil police from all VIP/personal guards duties and sent them back to thana s and order SHOs to be answerable to general public.Everything will come back to its limits in days.

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  • Faesal
    Apr 17, 2012 - 8:04PM

    Hard work of intelligence agencies wasted by incompetent government.

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  • Shin this pit
    Apr 17, 2012 - 8:13PM

    @syed baqar ahsan: Why would you ask the CJ to give orders to the Police about what to protect and how to protect it? That’s neither his job nor his ambition nor his area of expertise. Let the Executive and the Legislature do their role please and if they fail, kick them out in the next election.

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  • Mr. Honest
    Apr 17, 2012 - 8:14PM

    agar ANP govt. ko corruption seh time milta tau woh action laitee… they r too busy plundering as they know they will never win again. InshAllah.

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  • SalSal
    Apr 17, 2012 - 8:30PM

    These govts full of corrupt people are pathetic. Even the attacks on Mumbai were known and informed the Indian govt by their agencies. Same thing happened now in Pakistan, the agencies informed them and these corrupt politicians didn’t do anything

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  • anwar
    Apr 17, 2012 - 8:58PM

    which govt? Multan sarkar or Sindi sarkar?

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  • Ali
    Apr 17, 2012 - 9:06PM

    Intelligence agencies should prevent the attacks as well. Just warning an effective govt. does not justify their heft bills. What is the use of the agency if it only acts as a warning. If it sees a threat, it should be able to supress it. The govt. is busy in “other” stuff.

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  • Aayan
    Apr 17, 2012 - 9:43PM

    @Ali: Thats not the job of an intelligence agency.. The job of intelligence agency is to provide information.. if our government wouldn’t have been so incompetent, they could have stopped it by ordering Pakistan Army or Police or SSGs to take positions.. Agencies can maupulate things, provide info but its not in their capabilities to prevent an attack.

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  • Hamda
    Apr 17, 2012 - 10:12PM

    Will it not be termed threatening if an attack is being informed months back?
    is it not a big joke that if security guard informs the owner that house is being robed in coming month then, shall it not be an open threat to employer and a demand for the increase of bhatta?Recommend

  • Noise
    Apr 17, 2012 - 10:39PM

    @Ayan
    You seem to forget that the intelligence agencies of other countries like the CIA, the FSB, Mossad and even Iranian intelligence regularly go around assassinating or arresting people they consider a threat to their nation’s interests, they also make things happen by closely guiding their nation’s other security forces like how the CIA uses American airforce assets to drone people.Why cant our intelligence agencies be like that? Seems like all their action is reserved for Afghanistan or India or bribing local politicians and they give no importance to the actual defense of the country against major threats like terrorist groups which are beyond the sophistication of our police and FC. Spies are supposed to be the country’s first line of defense.

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  • Obaid
    Apr 17, 2012 - 11:16PM

    We the general public must share the blame for this gross incompetence as well. Had this been in any other country, there would have been mass protests, questions would have been raised by media, heads would have rolled etc. By here its just another day in the our lives. Granted that the common man is faced with so many other hardships and adversities but if we don’t hold those in charge accountable there could be more incidents like these.

    We have been reminded over and over again that our politicians are incapable or entertaining the notion of self accountability. Its actually a prerequisite of becoming a politician

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  • Super pak
    Apr 18, 2012 - 4:27AM

    @Noise:
    And you seem to forget that the president of the US is always informed on their actions. Indeed assasinations are authorized by the president only, case in point castro.

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  • Yuri Kondratyuk
    Apr 18, 2012 - 1:54PM

    Sure they were warned. How else could they successfully get out of the way of 400 odd escaping convicts?

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  • Insan
    Apr 18, 2012 - 3:02PM

    What judicial probe?

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  • Aayan
    Apr 18, 2012 - 3:28PM

    @Noise:
    Well, just understand the simple fact that if an agent is given some combat training, it’s main purpose is self defense, it is not meant to fight against 400 war trained armed personals. You really believe ISI would be training local ‘Jason bournes’. Don’t shy away from the fact that if intelligence was provided, it was the duty of Interior minister, the defense minister and the supreme commander ‘the president’ to act on it. As ‘super Pak’ said, even the CIA and MI6 conduct their operations after the approval of the hierarchy there. The difference is that the authorities there function on such intelligence reports and the authorities here wait for the tragedy to happen to actually check the truth in those reports…

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