Pakistani Taliban assault prison, free hundreds of inmates

The Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan launched a complex assault that included suicide bombers against a prison in Dera Ismail Khan, freeing more than 200 prisoners, including at least 30 “hardcore militants.” The attack was likely carried out by the Ansar al Aseer, a joint Taliban and Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan unit that has been designated to free imprisoned jihadists.

The attack began around midnight with a massive explosion outside the prison, which was followed by several more detonations designed to breach the prison walls. A team of Taliban fighters dressed in police uniforms then stormed the prison and engaged the guards while searching for imprisoned jihadists.

Outside the prison, teams of armed fighters deployed to block Pakistani security forces who attempted to reinforce the prison guards. Taliban fighters armed with rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns took control of a nearby hospital and a home and opened fire on Pakistani troops as they rushed to the prison, Reuters reported. Fighting lasted for more than three hours before security forces regained control of the prison.

The Taliban claimed credit for the attack, and said that hundreds of prisoners were freed. Spokesman Shahidullah Shahid claimed that more than 100 fighters and several suicide bombers executed the attack on the prison.

“We had sent around 150 fighters including a squad of suicide bombers. The aim was to free the inmates and it was a successful action as Taliban managed to free at least 300 prisoners,” Shahid said, The Times of India reported.

A Pakistani official confirmed that more than 200 prisoners, including dozens of jihadists, escaped during the jailbreak.

“A total of 243 prisoners have escaped, six of them were later arrested by police,” said a senior government official who was identified as Mushtaq Jadoon, according to Al Jazeera. At least “30 among the escaped prisoners were hardcore militants.” The identities of those who escaped have not yet been disclosed.

Ansar al Aseer tasked to free prisoners

The midnight attack in Dera Ismail Khan was likely executed by the Ansar al Aseer, a joint unit created by the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan.

The two groups announced the formation of the Ansar al Aseer, which is specifically tasked to free jihadist prisoners and support their families, in January 2013. Adnan Rasheed, a dangerous Pakistani jihadist who was freed in a nearly identical jailbreak last year; Yassin Chouka, a wanted German commander in the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan; and Abdul Hakeem, a Russian IMU member released the video announcing the establishment of the group.

Rasheed is a Pakistani terrorist who was involved in the Dec. 14, 2003 assassination attempt against then-President Pervez Musharraf. A member of the Pakistani Air Force, Rasheed was sentenced to death for his role in the assassination attempt. The execution was never carried out and he was placed in a prison in Bannu, near Pakistan’s tribal areas.

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. He served as a close aide to Qari Saifullah Akhtar, the leader of the Harakat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami. In addition, Farooqi served as the group’s representative to al Qaeda’s International Islamic Front.

The Taliban committed to free Rasheed from prison. On April 15, 2012, the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan launched a successful operation to free Rasheed and nearly 400 prisoners, including an estimated 200 Taliban fighters and jihadists, being held at a prison in Bannu. The operation was directed by Hakeemullah Mehsud, the emir of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, and Waliur Rehman Mehsud, the group’s former deputy who was killed in a drone strike in late May. More than 150 fighters assaulted the prison. Rasheed was later featured in a videotape celebrating the jailbreak.

Since his escape from prison, Rasheed has featured prominently in Taliban propaganda. In March 2013, Rasheed released a video that showed a squad of heavily armed Taliban fighters who he claimed are assigned to killed Musharraf. Rasheed said the “death squad” is split up into groups of “fedayeen, sniper team, special assault team, and close combat team.”

And two weeks ago, Rasheed released a letter to Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani schoolgirl who was wounded by the Taliban for advocating girls’ education. Rasheed attempted to justify the attack in the letter, which said he was written in a personal capacity and not speaking for the Pakistani Taliban or any other jihadist group.

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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  • mike merlo says:

    Iraq, Libya & now Pakistan. So who is next Egypt, Afghanistan, Syria etc.,?

  • Karim Baloch says:

    AP reports that during the jail break, the Taliban had time enough to murder 6 Shi’ite inmates, one of them being beheaded!
    Pakistan is a failed state on so many levels. Punjabis have never had a successful state of their own throughout history, always having been conquered and subordinated by foreigners. Even Punjab itself is an artificial construct of foreigners (Moghals, later British – Punjabis are a motley collection of Indian castes and tribes that were collectively lumped together by their foreign masters after they drew the boundaries of Punjab and imposed this alien name on these so-called Punjabis). Go figure, that these Punjabis have taken Pakistan and made it into a failure too.
    Pakistan’s absolute failure as a state is a threat to World peace, not just the peace in Afghanistan. It is tragic that at present, only the Baloch are resisting the onslaught of Islamist Pakistani terror.

  • EDDIED. says:

    Was it an attack or did they just unlock the cells and let them walk out and make it look like an attack?

  • bard207 says:

    Why isn’t the PA (Pakistani Army) embarrassed over their lack of a prompt response to the attack on the prison?
    The U.S. team spent less than an hour on the ground at Abbottabad several years ago while the attack on the prison lasted over four hours which was sufficient time to move in a QRF if the PA really cared.
    Yes, some might suggest that the U.S. force was acting as hostiles inside Pakistan when they came for bin Laden and the PA needed to be aggressive in getting a QRF in action against them.
    Yet, so many in Pakistan have claimed that there are Foreign Hands funding & guiding the TTP and similar, so the PA should also be aggressive in taking on these agents of the hostile countries (Foreign Hands).

  • Moose says:

    @Karim Baloch
    Nice catch on the yahoo article. I’ve stated on LWJ many times that Pakistan is a Punjabi-dominated country and that ethnic relations drive its national agenda. People from the region, such as yourself and some Indians that comment here, are aware of this, but Westerners are aloof to this major point. It’s also revealing when Punjabis comment here about how the TTP is really an Afghan conspiracy to redraw the Durand Line and reclaim its lost territories. I love those comments b/c of the insight it provides into the Punjabi psyche.
    Most likely, security at this prison was intentionally lax to encourage a prison break. It gives the Pakistanis plausible deniability as it did in the ridiculous prison break that freed Adnad Rasheed. As long as the Paki military doesn’t suffer and the TTP doesn’t conduct attacks into what I call “Pakistan-proper”, then it’s all good as far as the ISI is concerned. The TTP sows discord in the Pashtun territories and that makes the ISI very happy.
    All the best to you and yours against the Punjabis. I stand with you for an independent Balochistan.

  • kimball says:

    More action in BBC’s story than from DAWN, where
    the guards actually onlocked the gates and fled!


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