Around 150 heavily armed Taliban militants freed 248 prisoners, including more than 49 hardcore militants, some belonging to the TTP and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, during a sophisticated attack on the high-security Dera Ismail Khan Central Jail in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.
Armed with guns, mortars, rocket-propelled grenades and bombs, the attackers bombarded the prison before escaping with the inmates after a three-hour shootout.
An official of the district police told The Express Tribune that “around 248 prisoners escaped from the jail, including 49 high-profile militants, six death row prisoners and five females”.
Inspector General Police (Prisons) Khalid Abbas told The Express Tribune that the terrorists stormed the jail around midnight Monday.
“They were armed with RPG-7 anti-tank rockets, heavy and medium machine guns and automatic rifles,” he said, adding that the attackers were also equipped with improvised explosive devices and attacked the building in two groups.
Explaining further, Abbas said they first severed the electric supply to the prison and proceeded to fire rockets at the main gate, breaking it down.
“One group destroyed an armoured personnel carrier parked outside the main building killing three policemen inside the APC and then they forced their way into the jail despite the resistance of policemen deployed to protect it.
“The jail’s policemen were heavily outnumbered so the militants managed to overpower them,” he added.
They then proceeded to break the locks of the barracks and fired at least 65 rockets and grenades into the premises to reach the part of the prison where their men were locked up.
According to police officers, the militants called out the names of their colleagues through a megaphone once they entered the building and told them to come out of their cells.
In the ambush, 12 people, including five policemen were killed and 13 others were injured. The attackers also reportedly took away a female constable, Ghullab Bibi, who had been on-duty at the women’s barracks. Another police officer said that four female prisoners were also taken away by the militants.
The slain policemen were identified as Mazhar Hussain Qureshi, Saifullah, Rustam, Mir Zaman and Peyou Sardar. The fifth officer remains unidentified.
The dead prisoners were identified as Sajid Khan, Juma Malang, Aslam (a prisoner on death row), Akther Abbas (jailed for life), Naseem, Aslam Chaudhry and another prisoner whose identity could not be ascertained.
According to police officials, four of the prisoners were Shia.
TTP spokesperson Shahidullah Shahid claimed responsibility for the assault, calling it a “successful mission in which 150 men including seven suicide bombers participated.”
A police official claimed at least six militants were killed near Daraban check post during an exchange of gunfire between security forces and the escaping militants.
A police official who was on duty during the attack said prison authorities called for reinforcements, however they arrived late.
Commissioner DI Khan Mushtaq Jadoon said the militants had destroyed all the transformers, plunging the area into darkness when additional reinforcements arrived. He added that this provided cover to the militants to escape with the prisoners.
Jadoon stated that militants had also planted IEDs along their escape route which took the bomb disposal unit until Tuesday morning to defuse.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 31st, 2013.
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