About 200 inmates escaped from the largest jail in a northern Pakistani province when Taliban militants in police uniforms attacked early Tuesday morning, according to authorities. Pervaiz Khattak, the chief minister of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, said some 35 of the escapees are high-profile militants. Four police officials and five militants were killed in the fighting at the prison which is located in the city of Dera Ismail Khan, said provincial information minister Shoukat Yousafzai.
Mushtaq Jadoon, the Dera Ismail Khan police commissioner, said the prison held 483 prisoners at the time of the attack, and 200 are now missing.
The Taliban gunmen first cut off the prison’s power source, then attacked from all sides, according to Malik Qasim Khan, an adviser to the chief minister on prisons.
Witnesses heard multiple explosions. Upon entering the prison, the attackers announced the names of the people they wanted to free, and then whisked them away. Witnesses said they heard an explosion and firing, and then chants of Allah O Akbar, “God is great” and long live the Taliban.
The Pakistan Taliban has claimed responsibility for the attack. A Taliban spokesman said some 300 prisoners were freed, but Pakistani army officials denied the claim. A bomb disposal squad official told CNN they have defused 350-kilogram bombs planted in several places in the jail. He said they have also defused suicide jackets, explosives-laden chemical drums, and other bombs, and some weapons have been recovered.