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Interpol issues alert on mass prison breaks in Pakistan, Iraq and Libya

Published time: August 03, 2013 19:30
Policemen (R) and Ranger soldiers (L) stand outside a prison following a Taliban attack in Dera Ismail Khan July 30, 2013.(Reuters / Stringer)

Policemen (R) and Ranger soldiers (L) stand outside a prison following a Taliban attack in Dera Ismail Khan July 30, 2013.(Reuters / Stringer)

Interpol issued a global security alert to 9 nations Saturday after a series of prison breaks in Iraq, Libya and Pakistan, which the agency says may be linked, and in some cases were organized by al Qaeda.

French based Interpol is asking its 190 member countries to watch out for information connected to the jail breaks, as al Qaeda is suspected to be involved in at least some of the incidents.  They also asked countries to try and locate the escaped prisoners.

The Tehrik-e-Taliban, a Pakistani affiliate of al-Qaeda, lead an operation to bust open a prison in Pakistan on July 31.  Around 150 fighters armed with guns and grenade launchers blew holes in the prion wall of a century old prion at Dera Ismail Khan, just outside Pakistan tribal belt.

Al Qaeda has also claimed credit for two prison breaks in Iraq including in the infamous Abu Gharib prison on the night of July 22nd, in which 500 convicts escaped including some senior al Qaeda operatives. There was also a smaller jail break at the Taji prison, near Baghdad.

They used mortars to pin down Iraqi forces and suicide bombers to punch holes in their defenses followed by an assault force to free the inmates.

Some of the fighters were disguised as policemen and used a megaphone as they broke open cells to call out the names of specific prisoners and shouted “God is great” and “Long live the Taliban”, according to security officials.

While more than 1,100 inmates broke out of a prison in Benghazi in dubious circumstances on July 27th.

Interpol also noted that August has been the anniversary of several violent attacks over the past few years, including in Nairobi and Mumbai.

“Staff at Interpol’s 24 hour Command and Coordination Center and other specialized units are prioritizing all information and intelligence in relation to breakouts or terrorist plots,” the agency said in a statement.

The announcement comes after the US issued a warning that al Qaeda may be planning attacks in August in the Middle East and North Africa.

The US, Britain, France and Germany have closed their embassies in Yemen because of increased security concerns.