December 27, 2008 in Nation/World

Prisoner blamed for deadly riot in Iraq

By Kimi Yoshino Los Angeles Times

BAGHDAD – A man suspected of being a Sunni Arab insurgent with ties to the group al-Qaida in Iraq persuaded a prison guard to open his cell door, then overpowered him and stole his weapon, setting off a deadly riot that left 13 people dead in Ramadi, west of Baghdad, authorities said.

Seven detainees, including the riot’s instigator, were killed in the clash early Friday, along with six police officers.

Three detainees escaped and a fourth turned himself in without incident, said Tareq Yusuf Dulaimi, Anbar province police chief. One of the escapees is considered a high-ranking leader of al-Qaida in Iraq who has confessed to killing at least three police officers, authorities said.

Ramadi Mayor Latif Ubaid Iyada blamed the escape on a negligent prison guard, who unlocked the cell while carrying his AK-47.

“They attacked our policeman and killed him,” Iyada said. “They did their dirty trick and exploited his humanity for trying to help the sick prisoner.”

Dulaimi said police officers took control of the situation quickly, containing most of the three dozen prisoners held in one of two cells at the station. In all, about 11 suspects escaped their cells. Three were killed inside the jail and three others died just outside the station. Police chased a seventh suspect about 10 miles before fatally shooting him.

Authorities immediately instituted a curfew at 5 a.m., which lasted throughout the day. Police searched large swaths of Anbar province to look for the three remaining escapees.

“The citizens of Anbar condemn the jailbreak,” Iyada said in an interview on Al Arabiya TV. “There is no return for terrorism in Ramadi – not today, nor in the future, because the police forces in Anbar are in full control.”

At least 10 police officers were wounded in the attack.

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