Militant group claims responsibility for Iraq prison attacks
An al Qaeda group claimed
responsibility Tuesday for coordinated attacks
on two Iraqi prisons that a lawmaker said
freed more than 500 inmates, including some
senior members of the militant group.
Militants supported by suicide bombers and
armed with mortars, rocket-propelled
grenades and machine guns attacked two
Iraqi prisons Sunday and Monday as inmates
inside rioted and set fires, ending in a
massive jailbreak, authorities said.
The attacks occurred Sunday night at Abu
Ghraib, west of Baghdad, and al-Taji prison,
north of the capital.
At least 21 inmates and at least eight prison
guards were killed, the Iraqi Justice Ministry
said, while 25 inmates and 14 guards were
Blast during sermon in Iraq
mosque kills at least 18
The Justice Ministry did not say
how many inmates had
escaped, but lawmaker Hakim
al-Zamili said Monday that
more than 500 fighters had
A statement posted on radical Islamist
websites and purporting to be from the
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant claimed
responsibility for the attacks and said that
"more than 500 of the best jihadi fighters"
were among the freed inmates.
CNN could not confirm the authenticity of the
statement, which was signed by the group's
Information Ministry instead of the more
usual official media wing.
State-run TV Al Iraqiya reported that guards
at Abu Ghraib, also known as Baghdad
Central Prison, facilitated the prison break.
Al Iraqiya ran part of an interview with Prime
Minister Nuri al-Maliki, who said "the guards
who were present inside the prison were part
of this militia, they were complicit, and they
are the ones who opened the prison gates."
Al Iraqiya TV also reported that the Ministry
of Interior had arrested a number of the
escapees, but the report did not specify a
number or from which prison they had
Ramzy Mardini, adjunct fellow at the Beirut-
based Iraq Institute for Strategic Studies,
compared the attacks to a previous prison
break in Yemen. Many of those who escaped
then belonged to al Qaeda.
"Like in Yemen in 2006, this could be al
Qaeda's so-called great escape moment in
Iraq, whereby a prison break is large and
significant enough to exhibit noticeable
impact on the insurgency and the group's
effectiveness for the foreseeable future,"
Mardini wrote in an e-mail to CNN.
"Al Qaeda has certainly proven its reach over
the past year to still exhibit a capacity to
pull off high-profile and coordinated attacks.
But this takes the cake, especially given the
scale of the operation, its potential impact
and the fortified nature of the target," he
Mardini described the attacks as al Qaeda's
"best advertisement" in terms of propaganda
since 2009 bombings in Baghdad.
Bombers strike in Iraq; more than 20 dead
Meanwhile, at least 16 people were killed
and dozens wounded in a new wave of
explosions and shooting in Baghdad and
Mosul on Tuesday, according to police
Three roadside bombs exploded in rapid
succession near a popular restaurant in
southern Baghdad, killing seven people and
wounding 28 others. A car bomb and two
roadside bombs outside a Sunni mosque, also
in southern Baghdad, killed four people and
wounded 15 more, officials said.
In western Mosul, the northern Iraq
metropolis, gunmen at a livestock market
killed three Shiite people, who police said
were visiting from Baghdad. Two prison
guards were shot dead in eastern Mosul.
Attacks on Monday also rocked Mosul. A
suicide bomber blew himself up at an Iraqi
army post in northern Mosul's Kokjili district
in the morning, police said. At least 16
people were killed and 21 were wounded.
Both civilians and soldiers were among the
Later, at least four people were killed and
two were wounded when a roadside bomb
exploded near a Sunni mosque in the al-
Muthana neighborhood of central Mosul,
The deadly fighting is the latest in a string
of violence in recent months, much of it
stemming from discord between Sunnis and
Shiites. Sunnis have long felt politically
marginalized under a Shiite-led government
in the post-Saddam Hussein era. They
enjoyed more political clout during Hussein's
rule before his ouster after the U.S.-led 2003