Pakistani Taliban assault prison, free nearly 400 inmates

The Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan launched a nighttime assault on a prison in northwestern Pakistan, freeing nearly 400 inmates, including “hardcore militants.”

A Taliban force estimated at 150 fighters launched the attack on the prison in the district of Bannu at 1:00 a.m. local time and clashed with prison personnel for nearly two hours, according to AFP. The heavily armed Taliban fighters blew open the front gate and lobbed grenades and fired on prison guards during the attack. Other Taliban fighters blocked off the surrounding roads to prevent Pakistani reinforcements from reaching the prison.

Ihsanullah Ihsan, a spokesman for the Taliban Movement of Pakistan, claimed credit for the assault and said the group would provide more details on those who were freed.

“We attacked the Bannu prison and got our special members freed,” Ihsan told AFP. “In a couple of days when all of them have reached their designated places we will issue details about them. At the moment I cannot give you exact numbers.”

Twenty-nine inmates have since surrendered to security forces and another 11 have been recaptured.

One of the terrorists who escaped is Adnan Rasheed, who was involved in the Dec. 14, 2003 assassination attempt against then-President Pervez Musharraf. Rasheed was a member of the Pakistani Air Force and has been sentenced to death for his role in the the assassination attempt.

Rasheed worked for Amjad Farooqi, the Pakistani terrorist who engineered the two assassination attempts against Musharraf in December 2003 at the behest of al Qaeda leader Abu Faraj al Libi; Farooqi is suspected of involvement in other terror attacks as well. Farooqi was a member of the Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan; the Harkat-ul-Ansar and its successor, the Harakat-ul-Mujahideen; Harakat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami; and Jaish-e-Mohammed.

Farooqi served as a close aide to Qari Saifullah Akhtar, the leader of the Harakat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami. Farooqi also served as the group’s representative to al Qaeda’s International Islamic Front. He is thought to have been involved in the Indian airliner hijacking that led to the release of both Maulana Masood Azhar, the future leader of the Jaish-e-Mohammed, and Sheikh Omar Saeed, a senior al Qaeda and Jaish-e-Mohammed operative involved in the death of US journalist Daniel Pearl. Farooqi was killed by Pakistani security forces on Sept. 26, 2004.

While the Taliban have not named the commander who led last night’s assault against the prison in Bannu, Asmatullah Shaheen is likely to have commanded the forces. Shaheen, who is on the Pakistani government’s list of the 20-most-wanted Taliban commanders in South Waziristan, operates in the area and executed a similar attack four months ago. On Dec. 23, he led a successful assault against a Pakistani Frontier Corps fort in Tank that resulted in the death of one soldier and the capture of 15 more.

Given that Adnan Rasheed was freed in the prison break, a Taliban faction called the Amjad Farooqi Group may also have been involved. The Amjad Farooqi Group took credit for one of the most brazen attacks in Pakistan over the last several years. On Oct. 10, 2009, the Amjad Farooqi Group killed six Pakistani Army personnel, including a brigadier and a lieutenant colonel, in an assault on Army General Headquarters in Rawalpindi.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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  • JRP says:

    If we don’t straighten things out in Pakistan before we bug out in 2014 we’ll be reading about the freeing of nukes from the Pakistani arsenal vice militants from the Pakistani jails. These jail/prison attacks seem to occur every so often as to make one think that a foolproof system would be in place by now to prevent them from happening. It is obvious that they continue to happen because of corruption within the system that permits the perpetrators to get close enough to attack without intervention. Sooner or later that same corruption will pervade the forces charged with guarding Pakistan’s nuclear weapons. It’s inevitable, if the U.S. fails to take steps to prevent it.
    We obviously need more rather than less troops on the ground in the region, but lack the political will to conscript an army. We should trade off with our reluctant NATO allies. Let Britain, France, Germany, etc. pull their troops out of Afghanistan and send them to, say, South Korea to replace our combat forces (not administrative forces, just the pure combat forces) there. Then send those freed U.S. troops to the active war zone. We’d have less problems with our allies and the grumblings of their respective national populations and more troops available to cut down on the constant re-assignments that are wearing out those sent again and again back into theater.

  • Villiger says:

    Nothing, NOT ONE THING surprises me about PAQistan any more.

    JRP, while corruption is no doubt endemic to Paq society, this could also simply be sheer incompetence in security. Either way, i concur with the risk to its nuclear arsenal which you right to highlight.
    It astonished me that at the Seoul summit there was not one little sueak against the Paqi State. It astonishes me that, for all the noise about Iran on a daily basis, the West continues to ignore the real and present danger of Paqistan. At the World’s peril, Sirs.

  • mike merlo says:

    Great news. Once again Pakistan has to be wondering are they coming or going!

  • Devin Leonard says:

    This is why IMHO it is always best to kill these Taliban scum and not capture them. Commanders, ok…I know we need info out of them, but the run of the mill militants just need to be waxed to avoid these kinds of things. And this also goes to show why allowing the Afghani’s ownership of all the prisons is such a huge mistake. The Afghanis need to get their act together and stop the Taliban from these kinds of Ops.

  • interbilly says:

    that sounds very convenient way to empty the paki prison. full stop.

  • blert says:

    You may have overlooked the fact that these players were never in ISAF custody.
    Everything transpired within Pakistan.
    If they can’t keep a presidential assassin-wannabbe in prison…
    Who’d think they can hang on to atomic weapons?

  • mi1400 says:

    US spending $80-bn annually to keep its 1% population in prisons. Quantify the loyalty Pakistan should be sharing while getting some $12-bn over what.. 10yrs !?!
    search keyword prison in …

  • Spooky says:

    That prison is not guarded by the Pakistan Army, but by local provincial paramilitary. Thus connection between this and nukes protection is irrelevant.

  • RQ says:

    It is Sheer Incompetence! If you ever get a chance of visiting Bannu you will know. The police is scared to confront the terrorists due to insufficient man power and supplies. The Pak Army has fortified itself within the Cantt area of Dera Ismail Khan.

    The local police is under staffed and lacks operational capacity against well organized attacks. Corruption is common and people consider it a vital organ of the system. There was barely any rule of law in Pakistan since its inception as a state, it is now a rouge state.


  • bard207 says:

    The Pakistani Army has a Base – Cantonment in the Bannu area, yet they were unable to send out a QRF or reinforcements to the prison? The Pakistani Army complained about the bin Laden raid making them look bad. This prison break makes them look even worse.

  • indus says:

    Who is to say that this is not the work of ISI, who likely have other terror assignments in mind for the escapees. Jail break is an easy way to get around the pAQi (villager came up with this) judicial system that sometimes slows ISI down. The national paper Express Tribune is reporting that only 36 prison guards showed up for the break in shift when 150 were supposed to be on duty. Looks like the order came from within to stay away, unless you believe that the missing 76% were Taliban sympathizers – and still the prison had no clue of imminent break in.

  • Devin Leonard says:

    Blert- Your right, I misread the article. This did indeed happen in Pakistan, I should probably apologize to the ANSF forces. What I will say is that The Pakis are incompetent OR they just don’t care. Either way This is just another X mark on the foolish Pakis who couldn’t guard a daycare center.

  • Mr T says:

    There was a time when non uniformed combatants would be considered spies and executed. Hiding behind old men, women and children and putting those innocent lives in danger by hiding among them should be enough of a justification for execution.
    Besides, the Taliban are not a Country nor did they sign any Geneva convention. They don’t play by any set of rules other than those they make for themselves. They can therefore change their own rules to allow whatever they want to.
    That should also be justification for execution if they are caught. The problem is that civilized societies subscribe to rules of honor during war time.
    The Taliban have no honor. That is why they can intimidate local populations and force their compliance. They can torture and kill for any reason or no reason and they get some boompah to rationalize it through some kind of religious proclamation. It is still dishonorable murder.

  • Villiger says:

    Spooky i hope you’re right but i certainly wouldn’t strategize based on your premise.
    For one thing, there is no telling to what degree the PaqMil has been infiltrated. Note that when you spell it the way i do, which reflects the FACT of AQ and its associated movements (ie AQAM) being intertwined n the mix of the Paq ‘establishment’, you realize that to say the PAQMIL is safe is a total contradiction in terms.
    Another fact is corruption and (process) incompetence are embedded into Paqi culture, at every level, top-to-bottom and bottom-to-top. I refuse to believe that Paq’s nuclear arsenal is protected in some isolated islands of competence and excellence. It just doesn’t add-up i’m afraid.
    PAQ projects a lot of bravado and sense of control. I don’t buy that for a minute. For example if the US wanted to take over Baluchistan it would not surprise me if a well-planned operation could pick it off in 100 hours. What consequences follow in the rest of PAQ is another matter and another discussion.

  • Villiger says:

    Indus, thanks for picking up on that pAQistan term. As you and i know, Paqistanis, led by their establishment and mullahs, have become an utterly be-sharam (shameless) lot, so much so that i perceive it now as part of their national character.
    As such, they need to be named and shamed. Once again i appeal to others to spread the word in the spirit that dignity is not something automatic. Let the people of Paqistan feel that they are being mocked by the peoples of the world, so that they may be enCOURAGED to rebel against their Military that has been mis-leading them for decades and is now leading them towards their collapse.
    I don’t want any credit for coining this apt term, but will be delighted to see it pick up momentum and gain currency. Every little bit counts and please remember this is more than just words, it IS an ACTION. Benign yet potentially sharp, only if it reaches a tipping-point.

  • SUN says:

    Sorry for the silly question. Why was an important prisoner, such as assassin of a president, kept just 25 Kms away from North Waziristan FATA border?

  • Talibanis freed the miltants from jail. Talibanis attacked western embassies in Kabul. Mujahiddin attacked Kargil. Non-state actors attack Mumbai. Entire world has seen through the double game which Pakistan plays. It is no more secret that Pak military and ISI are the real masters behind all these attacks. It is only a matter of time that Pakistan is declared a terrorist state and most of the countries of the world will announce sanctions against Pakistan until they dismantle terror infrastructre completely. Our government of MMS, china and a few other terroist states will be the only exceptions which will support Pakistan.

  • Villiger says:

    Anjali, “government of MMS”???
    Btw, who are you speaking to? How many people here understand your obscure abbreviations? Or you another Indian just speaking to other Indians? As someone who is familiar with South Asian affairs intimately, it took me awhile to figure out what you were saying. That is a part of the problem of you Indians. All the while, over decades, while Paqistan ran little circles around you, your various successive Govts failed to communicate effectively with the World to persuade and influence public opinion adequately. Accept responsibility–your ability to respond has been limited because you love your abbreviations and because you love to sit on your hands. Paqistan developed the Islamic bomb, which today is a major limiting factor, under your watch just as much under the watch of the US, Britain and the IAEA.
    If one’s pen is one’s sword, India’s is a damp squib.
    Don’t just blame ‘MMS’ (Man Mohan Singh), blame your culture of mediocrity.

  • bard207 says:

    Anjali Sharma,
    Sentiment against Pakistan and Pakistanis is slowly but surely shifting in the direction that you have suggested. A fellow OIC member is blocking the entry of Pakistanis.
    Kuwait visa restrictions for Pakistanis”
    THERE is a total ban on all types of visas for Pakistanis in Kuwait. The ban, imposed on nationals from Syria, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan, includes suspending all tourism, visit and trade visas as well as visas sponsored by spouses.

  • Spooky says:

    To make plays off national names doesn’t really sound witty, it just plays into the idea of ignorance about a nation outside of the US media coverage. Despite what the imbecilic Pakistan military might try to portray, the Pakistan Army =/= Country.
    Also, I am not saying the military is “safe” as there have been many incidents to say otherwise. I AM however, saying that this incident is not one of them and the comments board should not be used merely as a soapbox for generalisms and hatred. After all, there are a number of topics related to this prison bust that make this an important event, such as what will the wannabe-assassin do now that he is free, what is the connection between this and the Kabul attacks, how many prisoners have been recaptured? These are important questions.
    To merely use anything that happens in Pakistan to preach to the choir about what most already believe is unhelpful as to analysis or further news.

  • peter says:

    I don’t get it.
    TTP are supposedly fighting against Pakistani army and ISI so how come they get helped by their own enemies. Some people here are making far fetched theories to support their theory instead of looking objectively.

  • Villiger says:

    Spooky, if you thought with the alternative spelling of Paqistan one is trying to sound witty, you have the wrong end of the stick. The right end of the stick is to inflict a degree of mockful offense without firing a bullet, against a proven terror-State.
    Its that simple really. And its the reality of the AQ/Pak partnership that makes it effective.
    At one level, Paqistan is today the centre of global terrorism in the World and has contributed inordinately to individual insecurity and the daily inconveniences that come with it. This is not a ‘soapbox’ issue, nor about ‘hatred’. As a global villager it is not only my right but my duty to protest.
    And when people extrapolate and ask that if this can happen in Paqistan, what about the safety of their nukes(?), I call this intelligent extrapolation–what Obama called joining-the-dots–not a ‘generalism’ (sic)/ generalization.


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