Militants belonging to the Pakistani Taliban and disguised in police uniforms launched an attack, late on Monday, on a prison in Dera Ismail Khan, a city in Pakistan's Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province, and managed to free at least 247 prisoners.
Banned Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, or TTP, used rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns to launch the attack on the prison, which is located near South Waziristan, Pakistan’s lawless tribal region along the border with Afghanistan, news reports said.
About 11 people were killed and nine others were wounded in the assault.
The casualties so far include five policemen, four prisoners and two private security guards, Pakistan’s Dawn News reported, adding that a search for the fugitives is ongoing. Pakistan’s security forces, backed by the army, reportedly fought the militants for several hours before regaining control of the prison.
TTP spokesman Shahidullah Shahid, who spoke to Dawn News, claimed responsibility for the attack, adding that about 100 militants, including several suicide bombers, were part of the operation. He claimed TTP achieved its target and termed the operation a success.
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Militants cut electricity lines to the prison before detonating explosives near the outer walls to gain entry. Gunmen took control of a hospital and a house nearby, holding the residents hostage while they exchanged gunfire with the police, news reports said.
Prison officials said the facility held at least 5,000 prisoners, many of them belonging to banned militant groups. And, Dawn News reported, citing intelligence agency data, that there were at least 45 high-profile militants in the facility, but it remains unclear how many of them were among those who escaped.
BBC reported that two local Taliban commanders, Abdul Hakim and Haji Ilyas, managed to escape, and so did a Sunni sectarian militant, Waleed Akbar.
In April 2012, nearly 400 prisoners were freed from a prison, in a militant operation, on the outskirts of the northwestern town of Bannu bordering South Waziristan, according to Dawn News.