DERA ISMAIL KHAN/PESHAWAR, July 31: In one of the two biggest jailbreaks in the history of Pakistan, the militants on Tuesday helped 243 prisoners escape from the British-era Dera Ismail Khan Central Prison after killing 12 people, including six policemen, while five attackers were also killed. Around 300 prisoners had escaped in a similar jailbreak in Bannu when scores of militants stormed the dungeon in April last year.
Inspector General Police (IGP) Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Ihsan Ghani told The News that 60 to 70 men, armed with heavy weapons and explosives, carried out the attack during which around 250 prisoners managed to escape.
A number of hardened militants were among the inmates of the Dera Ismail Khan Central Prison. Among them was Walid Akbar, who had been awarded 1,616 years jail sentence for his involvement in bombing of the Ashura procession in the city last year.
The IGP KP, along with Inspector General Prisons Khalid Abbas and other senior officials of the Home and Tribal Affairs Department, on Tuesday reached Dera Ismail Khan from Peshawar to visit the prison.
Officials and eyewitnesses said over 100 attackers came in vehicles and also on motorbikes to storm the prison from all the four sides simultaneously as one group opened fire on a security checkpost near the jail that was built in 1854.
“The attackers killed six policemen including Mazhar Hussain, Saifullah, Rustam, Mir Zaman and Piao Sardar. Two prisoners from Multan, Sajid and Juma Malang, who had been awarded death sentences, as well as two other inmates, Akhtar Abbas and Muhammad Aslam were also killed inside their barracks,” said an official.
The official said three other people, including the watchman of a bakery, a passerby and an unknown person, were also killed while 16 persons were wounded.Curfew was clamped in Dera Ismail Khan and Tank districts after the attack and a massive search operation was launched.
Locals said they heard dozens of huge and minor explosions starting from 11:15pm on Monday that continued till 2:30am on Tuesday. “I could count over 30 explosions and it continued after that,” said a resident in Dera Ismail Khan. Due to expansion of the city and increase in the population, the prison is now located in densely populated part and the bomb blasts could be heard in the nearby localities all night. It also scared the people and prompted them not to venture outside.
Dozens of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and other explosives were defused during an operation to sweep the prison. “The bomb disposal unit (BDU) experts defused 28 time bombs, four remote-control IEDs, a suicide jacket, five rockets and eight grenades during the search operation. The area has been cleared now,” the chief of the BDU Shafqat Malik told The News. The inmates who escaped from the cell included around 30 militants. Five women prisoners were also among those who fled during the jailbreak.
Expressing anger over the jailbreak, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Pervez Khattak termed it a failure of the intelligence agencies. He ordered a probe into the jailbreak, vowing to take the strictest action against those found negligent. The joint inquiry committee that he constituted to probe the incident was asked to submit the report within 15 days.
The committee will comprise Senior Member Board of Revenue (SMBR) Waqar Ayub, Special Secretary Home Department Syed Alamgir Shah, Additional Inspector General Police (Special Branch) Akhtar Ali Shah and representative of Pakistan Army (Headquarters 11 Corps).
The chief minister said he was told by the authorities recently that adequate measures had been taken for the security of the prison. He said he would visit the jail. He directed the authorities to increase security of the prisons.
Furthermore, 27 cops, including a superintendent of police (SP), were suspended for showing negligence during the whole episode.The authorities had reportedly got reports that the militants were planning to attack the prison. Ominously, a clash inside the Dera Ismail Khan Central Prison a day earlier had resulted in injuries to two cops.
“We had taken shelter in a nearby bakery. The attackers also shot dead the watchman of the bakery when he fired two shots in the air,” said an eyewitness.
Some eyewitnesses said the police arrived too late as armed men had taken positions on all the four sides to counter them.Commissioner Dera Ismail Khan Mushtaq Jadoon told reporters that 242 prisoners had escaped during the attack. He said people were told not to come out of homes as the police and army were clearing the area.
The deputy inspector general (DIG) police, commissioner and deputy commissioner Bannu, IG Prisons and superintendent Bannu Prison were suspended over the Bannu jailbreak in April last year. Militants had helped free around 300 prisoners during the attack. Those who escaped at the time included Adnan Rashid, convicted for his involvement in the attack on the then President General Pervez Musharraf.
Taliban spokesman Shahidullah Shahid claimed that more than 250 prisoners escaped from the jail.“Majority of our people along with the freed prisoners reached a secure place. Some of our very senior people also succeeded to escape,” the spokesman claimed.
The IGP along with home secretary and an additional IG visited the prison and heard the account of the incident from the cops. The IGP suspended SP, DSP of the Elite Force and their subordinates in the area.
An inquiry committee was constituted that comprised additional inspector general of Special Branch and senior member of the Board of Revenue.The IGP also posted Ijaz Ahmad as DIG of Dera Ismail Khan. The DIG was transferred a couple of days back to Mardan.SP Elite Force Toheed and DSP Behram were among 27 cops suspended in Dera Ismail Khan.An investigation team headed by SP Investigation Dera Ismail Khan was also formed.