BAGHDAD — Jailbreak attempts at two major prisons outside Baghdad have claimed the lives of at least 25 members of Iraq’s security forces, while a car bombing targeting soldiers early today killed another 12, according to officials.
There were conflicting reports on whether inmates had escaped. Local media and jihadist Internet forums reported some prisoners had managed to flee, but authorities have not officially reported any break-outs. Many of the thousands of inmates are insurgents, including members of al-Qaida’s Iraq branch, who have been convicted on terrorism-related charges.
The prison attacks that began late Sunday at lock-ups in Taji and Abu Ghraib, both in the outskirts of the capital, are the latest indication of deteriorating security conditions across the country. Government forces combed surrounding areas for attackers and guards at Taji appeared on high alert with assault rifles at the ready early today.
Attackers detonated bombs and lobbed mortar rounds at Taji prison, 20 kilometers (12 miles) north of Baghdad. A suicide car bomber then attacked the main gate while another suicide bomber blew himself up nearby, sparking clashes between militants and the guards, according to police.
As the battle raged for about two hours outside, rioting inmates set fire to blankets and furniture, police said.
Fifteen soldiers were killed and 13 others were wounded in the Taji attack, they said. At least six among the militants were also reported killed.
A similar raid unfolded at the prison in Abu Ghraib in Baghdad’s western suburbs. Insurgents there struck the prison walls with mortar rounds and a car bomb, and at least one militant blew himself up at the main gate.
Ten policemen were killed and 19 others were wounded, they added. Four militants were reported killed in that attack.
Security forces reported finding undetonated car bombs and explosive belts used by suicide bombers near both prisons after the attacks.
The U.S. military previously operated the prisons in Taji and Abu Ghraib but handed control of both facilities back to Iraqi authorities before the last American troops departed in December 2011.
Abuse of prisoners at the hands of American guards inside Abu Ghraib following the 2003 U.S.-led invasion sparked outrage around the world and helped fuel anti-American sentiment in Iraq.
In a separate incident early today, a suicide bomber rammed his explosives-laded car into an army patrol in northern Iraq, killing at least 12 people, police and medical officials said.
The suicide bomber hit the patrol while traveling in a residential area in the city of Mosul, killing nine soldiers and three civilians, a police officer said. He added that 14 others, included four civilians, were wounded.
Mosul, 220 miles northwest of Baghdad, is one of Iraq’s major flashpoints.
Three medical officials confirmed the casualty figures. They spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to release information.
A surge of attacks has killed more than 450 Iraqis since the start of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan on July 10. It comes amid a larger spike in bloodshed in recent months that is raising fears of a return to the widespread sectarian killing that pushed the country to the brink of civil war after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.