Interpol Seeks 'Vigilance' After Prison Breakouts

Saturday, 03 Aug 2013 10:36 PM

By Cathy Burke

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A disturbing series of al-Qaida-linked prison breakouts that freed hundreds of terrorists prompted Interpol to issue a global security alert, it was reported Saturday.

In a statement issued from its headquarters in Lyon, France, Interpol urged countries around the world to show "increased vigilance", following prison breakouts over the past month in nine countries, including Iraq, Libya, and Pakistan.

"With suspected al-Qaida involvement in several of the breakouts which led to the escape of hundreds of terrorists and other criminals, the Interpol alert requests the organisation's 190 member countries' assistance in order to determine whether any of these recent events are co-ordinated or linked," the international police agency said.

"Interpol is asking its member countries to closely follow and swiftly process any information linked to these events and the escaped prisoners. They are also requested to alert the relevant member country and Interpol general secretariat headquarters if any escaped terrorist is located or intelligence developed which could help prevent another terrorist attack."

The warning came a day after the State Department issued a worldwide travel warning to Americans, and closed 21 of its embassies because of intelligence suggesting the terrorist network was planning attacks during August.

Prison breakouts took place in Pakistan on July 31 in a Taliban-led operation, and in Iraq at the Abu Ghraib prison July 22, when about 500 convicts — including senior al-Qaida operatives — escaped. More than 1,100 inmates broke out of a prison on the outskirts of Benghazi on July 27.

In a separate attack at a century-old prison at Dera Ismail Khan, just outside Pakistan’s tribal belt, as many as 150 fighters blew holes in the perimeter wall and stormed the prison compound.

The local authorities said some of the attackers were disguised as police officers, and they used megaphones to call out the names of specific prisoners and to chant “God is great” and “Long live the Taliban," The New York Times reported.

Nearly 250 inmates were freed during the attack.

The Interpol alert issued Saturday cited coming anniversaries of past terror attacks, including this week’s 15th anniversary the American Embassy bombings in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, which killed more than 200 people and wounded 4,000 others, The Times reported.

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