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Hundreds of prisoners escaped Iraq prison known as Abu Ghraib

July 22, 2013 at 9:57 PM   |   Comments

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BAGHDAD, July 22 (UPI) -- Five hundred to 1,000 prisoners, most with ties to al-Qaida, were freed from a Baghdad prison in a weekend raid by gunmen, an Iraqi lawmaker said Monday.

Hakim Abbas Mousa al-Zamili, a member of the security committee in Iraq's Parliament, told reporters the mass escape at Baghdad Central Prison, previously known as Abu Ghraib, occurred when the gunmen opened fire at the facility with mortars Sunday night, Alalam reported. Several police officers were killed.

Fars News Agency said extremists also attacked a second prison, Taji, to the north of Baghdad, firing mortar rounds at the facility and employing a suicide bomber at the main gate.

The news agency said at least 25 security force troops were killed at the two prisons in the fighting, which went on through the night. The military sent in aircraft to fend off the attackers, Fars said.

In other violence in Iraq, 26 people were killed in Mosul Monday when a suicide bomber drove into an army patrol, Justice Ministry officials said.

Sources in the ministry told The New York Times the dead included 22 soldiers and four civilians.

Since the holy month of Ramadan began July 10, more than 250 people have been killed across Iraq, including at least 84 who died Saturday and Sunday. Twenty-nine deaths were reported in attacks on two Baghdad prisons.

The United Nations envoy in Iraq Sunday condemned the recent wave of violence in Iraq.

"These criminal acts targeting Muslims praying in mosques or gathering after breaking their fast are senseless. The holy month of Ramadan should be a time for spirituality and forgiveness, instead of increasing violence and division," said Martin Kobler, the special representative of the secretary-general and head of the U.N. Assistance Mission for Iraq.

"I am deeply saddened that my last words as the [special representative] for Iraq have to be linked to violence and criminal acts. I call on all Iraqis not to let violence prevail and to work together toward peace and dialogue, the only sustainable solution."

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