Guards held after jail break

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The Independent Online

More than 100 prison officials and guards have been detained after 16 prisoners, including five inmates linked to al-Qa'ida who were awaiting execution, broke out of jail in Saddam Hussein's hometown, a police commander said yesterday.

The escape from the makeshift prison in Tikrit was the latest in a string of embarrassing security lapses in Iraq. The entire staff of the jail, including the provincial prison director, have been detained for questioning as part of the investigation into the escape, said Lieutenant-Colonel Ahmed al-Fahal, from the Salahuddin province police.

He said that six of the escapees, including three of the inmates linked to al-Qai'da, had been arrested by late yesterday. Security forces continued the hunt for the remaining fugitives. The prison escape on Wednesday came just before midnight at a facility on the grounds of one of Saddam's former palaces in Tikrit, 80 miles north of Baghdad. Authorities said the prisoners had pried open a bathroom window with a wrench to escape. Lt-Col al-Fahal blamed the jailbreak on the window's shoddy construction.

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