Local government officials in Pakistan have blamed failures by the security agencies and the police for the massive Taliban raid on a prison that freed hundreds of inmates over the weekend.
Officials of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) provincial government also noted that out of the 384 prisoners who escaped the jail in Bannu district, 53 have returned voluntarily – including a female prisoner -- while eleven other inmates were arrested, according to Agence France Presse.
Up to 150 militants stormed the prison after midnight on Saturday by blowing up the main gates with rocket-propelled grenades and released the prisoners. Bannu central prison reportedly holds 944 inmates in total.
Between 1:30am and 2am, dozens of armed militants stormed the prison and attacked the facility from all sides with heavy weapons, Bannu prison superintendent Zahid Khan told reporters.
The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militant group claimed responsibility for the attack.
Ehsanullah Ehsan, spokesman for TTP, told Pakistan media by phone: We attacked the Bannu prison and got our special members freed. In a couple of days when all of them have reached their designated places we will issue details about them. At the moment I cannot give you exact numbers.
According to Dawn, an English language Pakistani newspaper, it was the biggest jailbreak in the nation’s history.
The KP government’s report on the incident, which was sent to Pakistan’s interior ministry, noted the escapees included 21 prisoners who were sentenced to death. However, an AFP report indicated that 34 death row prisoners had fled the prison.
It is unclear how many of the condemned prisoners have been returned to the jail. Pakistan media reported that one of the inmates who escaped was a former air force official named Adnan Rasheed who was sentenced to death for plotting to assassinate former President Pervez Musharraf.
KP information minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain told reporters: We will investigate why militants were able to carry out such an attack successfully and what the security was doing.”
The report also criticized local police for failing to arrive at the prison in a timely manner – they didn’t show up until two hours after the raid freed the prisoners.
Meanwhile, Pakistan’s Interior Minister Rehman Malik told reporters in the capital of Islamabad that the jailbreak was a pre-planned conspiracy and that his office has devised new security precautions to prevent such incidents in the future.