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Militants launch deadly attack on Iraq prisons

Iraqi militants have carried out fierce attacks against two prisons near to Baghdad that claimed the life of more than 40. There are conflicting reports about a number of escapes, possibly in the hundreds.

On Monday, security forces combed the area around the prisons after the coordinated overnight attacks, looking for fighters and any escaped prisoners.

The militants detonated bombs and threw mortar rounds at Taji prison, which is some 20 kilometers (12 miles) north of Baghdad.

The main gate area was then attacked by suicide bombers, leading to clashes between militants and guards.

At least 15 soldiers died in that attack, with a further 13 people wounded. At least six of the militants were reported to have been killed. Inmates set fire to blankets and furniture during the battle. Justice Ministry officials said that there had been a number of deaths as a result of the riots.

There were similar scenes at Abu Ghraib jail west of Baghdad, where insurgents struck at prison walls with mortar bombs and a car bomb. At least one militant blew himself up while standing outside the gates. Ten policemen were killed and 19 others were wounded, according to police.

Parliamentary sources said there had been a large number of escapes, with one deputy claiming that more than 500 were on the run and another putting the figure at up to 1,000.

"It cannot be tolerated," Hakem al-Zamli, a member of parliament's security and defense committee, told the AFP news agency. "Those proved negligent in the prison's administration must be held accountable."

Prisons in Iraq are periodically hit by escape attempts, uprisings and other unrest.

rc/mkg (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)