Iraqi police hunt down Qaeda escapees
AFP - Sunday, December 28
RAMADI, Iraq (AFP) - - Iraqi police on a desperate manhunt for Al-Qaeda leaders who broke out of jail after a deadly firefight surrounded two former insurgent strongholds in the western city of Ramadi on Saturday.
Police said they suspected that the three escaped local leaders of Al-Qaeda in Iraq had headed for Al-Dubat and Humeira in the south of the city, districts that were controlled by the militant group until early 2007.
"These two districts were Al-Qaeda strongholds, and we suspect that the prisoners went to these districts," Major Ahmed Jawad told AFP.
"The search is still going on," he said, adding that a rapid response unit was hunting down the three men including Imad Ahmed Farhan, nicknamed "Imad the Killer" because police say he has admitted to murdering at least 100 people.
However police lifted a curfew in Ramadi, capital of Iraq's western Anbar province, imposed on Friday after the brazen breakout from Forsan police station in the city centre that left 13 militants and policemen dead.
The incident began at around 2 am when a prisoner called out that he was sick, and a policeman went to a communal cell to check.
When the officer entered the cell holding 40 men, 13 of them Qaeda members, they grabbed him and cut his throat with a makeshift knife. They then seized his gun and went to the police chief's office and slit his throat.
The 11 Qaeda prisoners then dashed into the courtyard where they shot a lieutenant and made it to the armoury before the gun battle erupted.
The prisoners and police fought for two hours before the officers managed to regain control of the complex. One prisoner was recaptured after suffering gunshot wounds.
Jawad said that security remained tight throughout the predominantly Sunni Arab city of 540,000, which was a key Al-Qaeda stronghold in the aftermath of the toppling of Saddam Hussein's regime by US-led forces in 2003.
But since 2006 local Sunni tribes there have sided with the US military to combat the jihadists. The daily level of violence has fallen dramatically in Anbar as Al-Qaeda fighters have been pushed out.
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