BAGHDAD (AP) - Prisoners seized weapons and clashed with security guards in an hourslong standoff that killed 12 people, including 10 guards, and allowed dozens of al-Qaida-linked inmates to escape before ending Friday in Saddam Hussein's hometown, Iraqi officials said.
The security breach drew sharp criticism of Iraqi security forces, which have been unable to stabilize the country almost a year after U.S. troops withdrew. Officials said reinforcements had to be sent from Baghdad to help put down the riot and prisoners burned all the prison records, complicating efforts to track down those still on the run.
The riot erupted on Thursday night when several inmates at the Tasfirat prison in Tikrit, 80 miles north of Baghdad, broke into a storage room, grabbed weapons being kept there and overpowered the guards, according to a spokesman for Salahuddin province where the city is located.
The prisoners then exchanged gunfire with security troops inside the facility before breaking out hours later. By Friday morning, government troops had regained control of the prison, the spokesman Mohammed al-Assi said.
"Everything is under control now. Our security forces are chasing the escaped prisoners and have already recaptured some," al-Assi said in a telephone interview.
Iraq has been struggling to keep terror suspects behind bars since U.S. forces turned over legal custody of their detainees to the government. In July 2011, detainees linked to al-Qaida escaped at least twice from a Baghdad area prison known as Camp Cropper shortly after the U.S. handed it over to Iraqi authorities.