At least two prisoners and a guard were killed in clashes as inmates attempted a jailbreak from a prison in the central Iraqi city of Hilla, justice and medical officials said yesterday.
At least five others were wounded in the unrest at the prison in the center of Hilla, 95km south of Baghdad, which took place on Friday evening, according to a justice ministry spokesman.
However, estimates varied as to the number of prisoners who escaped, ranging from just one to as many as 15.
“The situation in the prison is now under control,” justice ministry spokesman Haidar al-Saadi said. “Three people were killed — two prisoners and one guard. Five others were wounded.”
Saadi said an inquiry had been opened into the attempted jailbreak and added that early indications were that just one prisoner had escaped.
However, a first lieutenant in the Hilla police said 15 prisoners had gotten out, though three were later arrested. The group that was recaptured was wearing police uniforms at the time of their arrest.
A medic from Hilla’s main hospital also said four prisoners and a policeman were killed during the clashes at the prison, while four police and five prisoners were wounded.
The police lieutenant, speaking on condition of anonymity, said inmates set fire to some areas of the prison and were able to obtain arms from the prison stockpile.
Most of the inmates held in the jail are from al-Qaeda or Shiite militias, he said, adding that prisoners are generally kept there for between five years to life.
Jailbreaks and prison unrest are relatively common in Iraq.
Six Iraqi police and 11 inmates were killed in a Baghdad jail mutiny in May, while 12 suspected al-Qaeda members escaped from prison in the southern city of Basra in mid-January. At least two of the Basra escapees have been recaptured.