TIKRIT, IRAQ – Armed militants have attacked a prison in the Iraqi city of Tikrit, killing at least 12 guards and freeing about 90 inmates, officials have told the BBC.
They say a suicide bomber detonated a car bomb at the gates of Tasfirat prison and clashes between militants and security guards followed.
Some of the escaped inmates were reportedly al-Qaeda members.
The prison was later retaken from the gunmen by security forces, reports say. A curfew is now in place in the area.
The security forces are trying to re-capture the prisoners.
Tasfirat holds several hundred inmates, some of them condemned to death.
The unidentified gunmen stormed the prison on Thursday night.
The attack lasted into the early hours of Friday, and at one stage the militants controlled all the gates of the Tasfirat prison, about 160km (100 miles) north-west of Baghdad.
But a source in the police command of Salaheddin province later said the security forces “took control of the prison”, according to the AFP news agency.
Iraqi lawmaker Hakim al-Zamily was quoted in local media as saying that “hardcore” al-Qaeda militants were among those who managed to escape.
Mr Zamily, who is a member of the parliamentary security committee, said that the escapees seized documents identifying people who had provided information about them to the authorities.
The personal files on the inmates were also destroyed, he said, making it “impossible” to track them down.
In addition, the attackers reportedly took with them a police car and weapons seized from the guards.
The raid appeared to be well co-ordinated between the gunmen and some of the inmates, the BBC’s Rami Ruhayem in Baghdad reports.
The prison has previously seen disturbances among the inmates. In April, police said they had uncovered a plan by some prisoners to escape.
Militants have previously targeted Iraqi prisons in similar operations.