At least 30 Iraqi prisoners tunnel free in latest escape

McClatchy NewspapersSeptember 1, 2011 

BAGHDAD — More than 30 prisoners, including several high-ranking al Qaida in Iraq figures, tunneled their way out Thursday in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, authorities confirmed early Friday.

The escape came after inmates fled the city jail in Hilla, south of Baghdad, on Aug. 5.

A senior officer in the Mosul police department said the inmates had used metal plates and iron bars to dig nearly 150 feet out of the jail. He asked not to be identified because he wasn't authorized to discuss the escape.

He said a team of investigators had arrived from Baghdad to look into whether the escapees had received help from jail officials and that all the jail's employees had been detained.

"It's really early to decide whether there is collusion, but we have to admit that there is a great negligence and everybody should be questioned about it," the official said.

Twenty-one of the escapees had been found and arrested, authorities said. A curfew was imposed on the city as police searched for the rest.

Iraq has been struck by a string of jailbreaks in recent months, raising concerns that officials and guards are working with prisoners to help them evade jail time.

Mohammed Taha, a Kurdish lawmaker who's a member of the parliament's Defense and Security Committee, blamed security forces for Thursday's escape, saying that insurgents had infiltrated all Iraqi security agencies.

"We have to admit that the insurgents control the situation and they have the initiative," he said.

He said he had very low expectations for the committee's investigation into the incident. "

We've formed so many investigation committees," he said. "All the results are ignored and just left on the shelves."

(Hammoudi is a McClatchy special correspondent.)

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