BANNU: Nearly 400 prisoners escaped from a jail in northwest Pakistan early on Sunday after it was attacked by militants armed with guns and rocket propelled grenades, a senior police official said.
Some of those who fled the jail in the town of Bannu, near Pahstun tribal areas close to the Afghan border, were militants, an intelligence official said.
Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, which has close links to al Qaeda, said its fighters mounted the assault, which triggered clashes. Several people were wounded.
“We have freed hundreds of our comrades in Bannu in this attack. Several of our people have reached their destinations, others are on their way,” said a Taliban spokesman.
The claim could not be immediately verified.
If the Taliban freed the prisoners, it could deal a psychological blow to Pakistani security forces, who say they have made gains against militants through a series of attacks on their strongholds.
Police and intelligence officials said only some of the prisoners who escaped were militants.
“Dozens of militants attacked Bannu’s central jail in the early hours of the morning, and over 300 prisoners have escaped,” senior police official Mir Sahib Jan told Reuters.
“There was intense gunfire, and rocket-propelled grenades were also used.”
Paramilitary troops and security forces surrounded Bannu Central Jail. Of a total 944 prisoners in the jail, 384 escaped, said another police official.
Militants apparently targeted six jail blocks in the attack, he said.
The Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, or Taliban Movement of Pakistan, is fighting to topple the US-backed Islamabad government.
Major suicide bombings have eased in recent months, suggesting either security crackdowns have weakened the group, or it has changed tactics.