40 dead, many escape in Iraq prison break

iraq

Iraqi forces regained control of Diyala earlier this year, but sporadic IS attacks have continued

At least 30 prisoners and 10 guards have died in a prison break in Iraq, the country’s interior ministry says.

More than 50 inmates escaped from the jail in Khalis, north-east of Baghdad, including Islamic State (IS) members.

Reports conflict over how the incident started. Officials say it was caused by a prison riot, but local sources blame it on an external IS operation.

Iraq has seen a number of prison breaks. Many have been caused by militants seeking to free comrades.

Police officials said the trouble began when prisoners started fighting, and guards who intervened were attacked and stripped of their weapons. The ministry said there had been no external assault.

A curfew is now in place in the city and in two of its suburbs as security services comb the area in search of the suspects, the mayor of Khalis told the BBC.

Grisly pictures have been circulating on social media, with some commentators suggesting a massacre took place at the prison.

The Iraqi government is battling IS militants who have captured large parts of the country.

This is the third such jailbreak in Diyala since last June, when IS seized large territories in north and western Iraq as the regular army troops partly collapse.

Over 500 inmates, including leading Islamists, escaped from the Abu Ghraib prison west of Baghdad in 2013 after gunmen stormed the facility.

Separately on Saturday, a car bomb killed at least seven civilians and injured 14 others in Baghdad, police said. Shia pilgrims embarking on an annual march to a shrine in the capital were believed to have been the target.