Five al-Qaida-linked prisoners awaiting execution and 11 other inmates broke out of a prison in Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit, prompting a massive manhunt on Thursday, officials said.
A complete curfew was imposed on the city of 250,000 after the prisoners escaped at around 11:15 pm yesterday. Checkpoints have been set up throughout the city and at roads leading out, a Tikrit police officer said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to discuss the operation with media.
The prisoners were being held on charges including terrorism, kidnapping and murder, and the majority have links to al-Qaida in Iraq, the officer said.
Some are still awaiting sentencing, but five were slated for execution on terrorism convictions, the officer said. One of the five was recaptured early on Thursday in the Tikrit area -- a 19-year-old from a town near the city.
Iraqi military spokesman Maj Gen Abdul-Karim Khalaf would not comment on the inmates' possible links to al-Qaida, saying only that six of the escaped convicts are considered "dangerous."
The police officer said authorities found a pipe wrench in a bathroom in the prison yard, which the inmates apparently used to open a ventilation window.
Khalaf would give no details on the prisoners or how they escaped, but said authorities were distributing wanted posters with photos of the fugitives in the city, which is about 80 miles north of Baghdad.