Pakistan pursues hundreds of escapees

April 15, 2012 at 3:53 PM

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, April 15 (UPI) -- Pakistani officials said they launched a dragnet Sunday after nearly 400 prisoners were freed in a Taliban raid on a prison in Bannu.

About 30 of the 384 inmates who fled the lockup were back in custody as Pakistani authorities rallied from the brazen large-scale attack.

"This is the largest jailbreak in Pakistan's history," Malik Naveed Khan, a former police chief of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, told The New York Times. "It's a very serious failure."

Officials said about 100 Taliban fighters traveling in pickup trucks forced their way into the prison in order to rescue a former commander who had attempted to assassinate President Pervez Musharraf. Sources told the Times the guards offered little resistance, causing no casualties among the Taliban and only a few injuries among the staff.

"Such a large number of people barging into a jail in the middle of the night raises serious questions," said Khan.

Police responded by shutting down cell phone service in the area. It was believed the militants who fled -- their number remained unclear -- were likely headed to the neighboring Taliban stronghold of North Waziristan, the Times said.

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