Taliban militants free hundreds of Pakistani prisoners in raid
Close to 400 prisoners flee from prison in northwest Pakistan
Taliban militants have fought their way into a prison in northwest
Pakistan and have freed close to 400 prisoners. At least 20 of the
inmates freed are described as "very dangerous" insurgents.
The fighters stormed the prison before dawn in the city of Bannu in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, which is close to the Afghan border.
The escaped prisoners are now able to rejoin the fight, giving momentum and a propaganda boost to a movement that has killed thousands of Pakistani officials and ordinary citizens since 2007.
The fighters stormed the prison before dawn in the city of Bannu in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, which is close to the Afghan border. Bannu Prison Superintendent Zahid Khan reported that the fighters used explosives and hand grenades to knock down the main gates and two walls.
"They were carrying modern and heavy weapons," Khan says. "They fired rockets."
Insurgents headed straight to the area of the prison where death-row prisoners were held, Khan says. They fought with guards for around two hours, setting part of the prison on fire before freeing the 380 inmates, including at least 20 "very dangerous Taliban militants."
Provincial police chief Akbar Hoti says that authorities suspected the militants may have had inside help from prison officials. "I think the officials did not respond as they could have," Hoti told reporters. "It is also suspicious how the attackers could have exact information about their comrades."
A prisoner that did not escape, Amanullah Khan says that the militants coordinated with each other using radio handsets as they freed their colleagues in different parts of the prison.
"They had hammers to break the locks and doors," he said. "They shot at locks when they failed to break them open."
The militants shouted "God is great" and "Long live the Taliban" as they freed Adnan Rashid, who was on death row for his involvement in an assassination attempt against former Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf. The rebels honored him by placing a turban on his head.
The prison in Bannu housed 944 inmates. The government used the prison as the main facility to detain scores of Taliban militants arrested in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, said provincial minister Bashir Bilour.
"They have previously been in separate prisons, but for some time they have been shifted to this prison," Bilour says, who says he doesn't know exactly how many militants were released by the attackers.
Pakistani Taliban spokesman Asimullah Mehsud claimed nearly 150 militants were freed and made it safely to Mir Ali. Militants beat drums to welcome them when they arrived.
Pakistan's military has launched a series of operations against the Pakistani Taliban, which has forged alliances with al-Qaeda and other transnational militant movements based along the Afghan border. The movement is closely linked to the Afghan Taliban, which is battling U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan.
© 2012, Catholic Online. Distributed by NEWS CONSORTIUM.
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: Pakistan, prisoners, Taliban, freed prisoners
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