Hundreds of prisoners are believed to have escaped from a jail in northwest Pakistan after it was attacked by anti-government fighters armed with guns and rocket-propelled grenades.
Some of those who escaped from the facility in the town of Bannu, in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, early on Sunday morning were “militants”, an intelligence official told the Reuters news agency.
“Dozens of militants attacked Bannu’s Central Jail in the early hours of the morning, and more [than] 300 prisoners have escaped,” Mir Sahib Jan, the official, said.
“There was intense gunfire, and rocket-propelled grenades were also used.”
Many of those who escaped following the raid were convicted Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) fighters, Al Jazeera’s Kamal Hyder reported from Lahore.
A prison official in Bannu confirmed that “384 prisoners have escaped”.
A police official identified one of the inmates who escaped as a “dangerous prisoner”, who took part in one of the attempts to kill the former president, Pervez Musharraf.
The TTP, an umbrella organisation for anti-government groups that are loosely allied with the Taliban in Afghanistan and al-Qaeda, took responsibility for the attack.
A spokesman for Hakeemullah Mehsud, TTP’s leader, confirmed to Al Jazeera that the group was responsible for the attack.
Another Taliban spokesman told Reuters: “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.”.
Our correspondent said the attack took place in the early morning and had resulted in an exchange of fire that had left several people wounded.
“After the attack the paramilitary and regular military forces came to that location and tried to surround the area,” he said.
“They have arrested up to a dozen men, but most of the people have indeed escaped.”
The injured were rushed to a local hospital in Bannu.
Sources told Al Jazeera that as many as 150 fighters were involved in the attack.
After blowing up the gates of the main prison at around 1:30am local time (20:30 GMT on Saturday), they entered the compound and freed the inmates, the sources said.
The attackers had arranged for the transportation of the inmates from the facility.
A police official told Reuters that Bannu’s Central Jail held 944 prisoners in total, and that six cell blocks had been targeted in the attack.