BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Al Qaeda claimed responsibility for simultaneous raids on two Iraqi prisons and said more than 500 inmates had been set free, in a statement posted on militant forums on Tuesday.
The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, which was formed earlier this year through a merger between al Qaeda’s affiliates in Syria and Iraq, said it had carried out the attacks on Abu Ghraib and Taji jails after months of preparation.
Monday’s attack came exactly a year after the leader of al Qaeda’s Iraqi branch, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, launched a campaign dubbed “Breaking the Walls” that made freeing its imprisoned members its top priority.
“In response to the call of the mujahid (holy warrior) Sheikh Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi to seal the blessed plan of “Breaking the Walls”… the mujahideen brigades set off after months of preparation and planning to target two of the biggest prisons of the Safavid government,” read the statement.
Safavid is a reference to the dynasty that ruled Iran from the 16th to 18th centuries and is used by hardline Sunnis as a derogatory term for Shi’ite Muslims.
(Reporting by Suadad al-Salhy; Writing by Isabel Coles; Editing by Jon Boyle)
[Mourners pray at the coffin of a victim killed during an attack on a prison in Taji, during a funeral at the Imam Ali shrine in Najaf, 160 km (100 miles) south of Baghdad July 22, 2013. REUTERS/Haider Ala]