Al-Qaeda’s branch in Iraq on Tuesday claimed responsibility for recent coordinated attacks on two prisons near the capital Baghdad, the group said in a statement posted on an Islamic website.
“The Mujahedeen (holy warriors) brigades, after months of preparations and planning, targeted two of the largest prisons of the Safavid government, which are Baghdad Central Prison (Abu Ghraib prison) and Taji prison,” said the statement signed by the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant.
Safavid was the name of an Iranian dynasty that established the extreme form of Shiism, known as Rafida, as the official state religion and frequently fought the Sunni Islamic world.
The statement said that the attacks were a response to Iraq’s Shia-led government’s crimes against Sunni Iraqis.
According to the statement, al-Qaida fighters simultaneously attacked the gates and the outer walls of the two prisons, and blocked the nearby roads by seizing checkpoints and waging rocket and mortar barrages on military bases in the vicinity.
Fierce fight between the attackers and the guards of the prisons lasted for hours and resulted in “the freeing of hundreds of inmates, including more than 500 Mujahedeen,” the statement said.
A high-ranking security official told AFP on condition of anonymity that the escapees included high-ranking al-Qaeda members, and that they will likely attempt to launch revenge attacks.
“Dark days are waiting for Iraq. Some of those who escaped are senior leaders of al-Qaeda and the operation was executed for this group of leaders,” the official said.
“Those who escaped will work on committing acts of revenge, most of which might be suicide attacks,” he added.
Abu Ghraib became notorious after photographs showing Iraqi detainees being humiliated and abused by their US guards were published in 2004. It also served as a torture centre under Saddam Hussein’s ousted regime.