Fifty inmates and 12 policemen were killed when a riot erupted and dozens escaped from an Iraqi prison holding hundreds of people jailed for acts of terrorism, security and police officials said on Saturday.
Two versions emerged regarding how the breakout happened. According to Brig. Gen. Saad Maan, the prison break began when prisoners were able to seize a weapon from a guard and clashed with other guards.
ISIS, however, said it was responsible for the prison break, saying its fighters on the outside coordinated with its members who were inside the facility.
Iraq has seen a number of prison breaks. Many have been caused by militants seeking to free comrades.
Nine of the inmates who got away in the latest incident were being held on terrorism charges, including IS members. The rest, officials said, were common criminals.
This is the third such jailbreak in Diyala since last June, when IS seized large territories in north and western Iraq as the regular army troops partly collapse.
The most spectacular prison break was in mid-2013, when militants carried out a carefully orchestrated attack with mortar shells and suicide bombers on Iraq’s infamous Abu Ghraib prison, freeing more than 500 inmates.
Meanwhile, a car bomb exploded in Baghdad’s central Karrada area, killing at least eight civilians and wounding 28, a police officer said.
Among the dead were Shiite pilgrims preparing for next week’s major event commemorating the anniversary of the 8th century death of a revered religious figure, Imam Mousa al-Kazim. Thousands of pilgrims typically march to his shrine in northern Baghdad to commemorate his death.