Militants attack Pakistan jail, nearly 400 escape – police

BANNU, Pakistan,  (Reuters) – Dozens of Islamist militants stormed a prison in Pakistan in the dead of night early today and freed nearly 400 inmates, including one on death row for trying to assassinate former President Pervez Musharraf, police officials said.

Pakistan’s Taliban movement, which is close to al Qaeda, said it was behind the brazen assault by militants armed with rocket-propelled grenades and AK-47 assault rifles.

A police official said most of the escapees from the jail in the northwestern town of Bannu were militants.

“I don’t remember the exact time, but it must have been way past midnight. There were huge explosions. Plaster from the ceilings fell on us,” said prisoner Malik Nazeef, speaking by mobile phone to Reuters from the jail in the town of Bannu.

“Then there was gunfire. We didn’t know what was happening.”

While the Taliban in neighbouring Afghanistan have staged several jail breaks, such attacks are rare in nuclear-armed Pakistan, a strategic U.S. ally and one of the most unstable countries in the world.

“We have freed hundreds of our comrades in Bannu in this attack. Several of our people have reached their destinations, others are on their way,” a Taliban spokesman said.

The claim could not be immediately verified.

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