Monday, 17 January 2011

Twelve suspected Al-Qa'ida militants escape from Basra detention centre

The head of the security committee at Basra's provincial council, Ali Ghanim al-Maliki, has said that 12 militants linked to the Al-Qa'ida, have escaped from a detention centre in Basra. He also said that all the security personnel at the compound were arrested as part of the ongoing investigation.

"All of the men are linked to the Islamic State of Iraq that is linked to al-Qa'ida. Some of them were arrested eight months ago, and three of them were arrested a month, or less than a month ago…All the guards securing the compound have been detained for investigation. Of course, there was collusion from within the compound, but we do not know who is involved at this moment," said al-Maliki.

The men, who reportedly have ties with the Islamic State of Iraq, a Sunni insurgent group with connections to the al-Qa'ida, obtained police uniforms and walked out of the detention centre in the early hours of the morning. The 12 escapees were the only ones held at the fortified compound, once a Saddam Hussein's palace, while awaiting trial. Six of the men had confessed to involvement in a number of bombings in Basra, Amarah and Nasiriyah going back as early as 2004.

Al-Maliki also noted that the men stood accused of “attacks carried out recently in Basra”, referring to 8th November bombing which left 10 dead and 30 injured. The group was among those arrested two weeks after the attacks. It is believed that the fugitives are heading to Baghdad to obtain fake IDs and passports to help them flee the country. Security measures have been fortified around Iraq, and checkpoints set up on two major northbound roads.

Sources: BBC News, Reuters, AFP, Radio Free Europe

For more news and expert analysis about Iraq, please see Iraq Focus.

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