Nearly 400 detainees, including Islamist insurgents, escaped Sunday from a prison in north-west Pakistan, a stronghold of rebel groups, in an attack claimed by the Pakistani Taliban, and officials said the attackers.
More than 150 heavily armed men stormed the central prison of Bannu, near the tribal areas of Khyber and Orakzai, grenades and rocket launchers.
Ehsanullah Ehsan, the spokesman of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the party of the Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the operation. "We attacked the prison in Bannu and have released our members," said Ehsan told AFP.
"In a few days when they all returned to their posts, we will provide details about them. For now, I do not give you exact figures," he added.
The attack was launched around 1:00 pm (2000 GMT) and lasted about two hours, told AFP a senior security official.
The insurgents outnumber the guards, broke into the prison under cover of heavy fire from automatic weapons and rocket fire and fled before the arrival of security forces.
"Some 384 prisoners, including radical insurgents, escaped during the attack," he said.
"At least 20 insurgents and dangerous prisoners"
Prison inmates Bannu host 944, the official said.
A large number of insurgents had recently been transferred from Kohat prison adjacent and Lakki Marwat, converted into detention centers for the rehabilitation of former rebels.
According to the information minister of the province of KPK, Mian Iftikhar Hussain, "at least 20 dangerous prisoners and insurgents" are among the escapees.
One of them is a former officer in the Air Force awaiting the hearing of his appeal to the Supreme Court after being sentenced to death for an assassination attempt against former President Pervez Musharraf.
Police confirmed the attack but did not elaborate.
"There was an attack against the central prison and the prisoners escaped," he told AFP a top police official of Bannu, Iftikhar Khan.
"At least three policemen were injured in the attack," he said. "We have arrested four prisoners escaped," said another officer.
The tribal areas of northwest border with Afghanistan, are the stronghold of the TTP and other Islamist groups, but also the presumed sanctuary of al-Qaeda, who leads his troops.