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Iraqi forces catch three Al-Qaeda jailbreakers

Iraqi security forces recaptured three Al-Qaeda members today, police said, two days after a daring breakout which officials believe was an inside job.

world Updated: Sep 25, 2009 17:17 IST

Iraqi security forces recaptured three Al-Qaeda members today, police said, two days after a daring breakout which officials believe was an inside job.

Among those arrested was the apparent ringleader of a 16-strong group of escapees, 12 of whom are still at large.

Meanwhile, about 100 guards and staff at the prison in Tikrit, capital of Salaheddin province north of Baghdad, were being questioned.

"Early this morning, our forces arrested Waleed Ayash, one of the Al-Qaeda members who escaped from Tikrit prison Wednesday evening," said a high-ranking police officer in the province, who declined to be named because he was not authorised to speak to the media.

"Ayash planned the prisoner escape," he said, adding that the 34-year-old had been handed four death sentences for "dozens of crimes against police and military members, as well as civilians."

The officer said two other men were arrested in the same Albo Ajeel area, 15 kilometres east of Tikrit, where Ayash had been caught.

The 16 men broke out of the prison, a former presidential palace, in Saddam Hussein's hometown by fleeing through a window and scaling a ladder to climb over the prison wall. One of them was already re-arrested yesterday.