Dozens of inmates have escaped after gunmen attacked a prison in the central Iraqi city of Tikrit, leaving at least 10 policemen dead, officials have said.
Salaheddin provincial deputy governor Ahmed Abdul Jabbar told AFP news agency on Friday by telephone that the Tikrit prison had been retaken from fighters who seized it on Thursday night, but that 83 prisoners escaped.
"We took control of the prison, and the gunmen handed over their weapons," a source in the Salaheddin police command said.
The prison, which housed several hundred inmates, many of whom are suspected of links with al-Qaeda, was attacked by unidentified gunmen.
Accounts differed on the specifics of the jailbreak, but it appears gunmen attacked from outside the prison, while inmates may have seized weapons from guards inside.
A police lieutenant colonel said that a suicide bomber detonated a car bomb at the gate of the prison, after which it was assaulted by gunmen.
A hospital official in Tikrit, the ancestral home of now-executed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, said 10 police were killed and 34 wounded in the violence.
A curfew was imposed in the city, once home to now-executed former president Saddam Hussein.
Iraq's conflict has eased since its height in 2006-2007 when sectarian violence killed thousands.
But Sunni Islamists and an al-Qaeda affiliate still launch regular attacks, seeking to destabilise the country and undermine its Shia-led government.
Prison breaks are not uncommon in Iraq. Last September, 35 prisoners facing terrorism charges escaped via a sewage pipe from a temporary jail in the northern city of Mosul.
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|William A. Cook|