Iraqi militants using suicide bombers and mortar rounds staged coordinated attacks on two prisons, possibly freeing hundreds of prisoners including senior terrorist leaders.
Iraqi officials said at least 25 guards were killed in the assaults on the high-security prisons of Abu Ghraib and Taji, on the outskirts of Baghdad, that began late Sunday and continued into Monday.
A senior member of the Iraqi parliament's security and defense committee, Hakim al-Zamili, said at least 500 prisoners escaped. Other officials gave even higher figures for the number of escapees though they said some had been recaptured.
But Iraq Justice Ministry spokesman Wisam al-Fraiji said security forces were able to "fend off and defeat" the attackers and that the inmates are now under control.
Wisam al-Fraiji, Iraq Justice Ministry spokesman said, ''The attack against Taji jail alone was carried out by nine suicide bombers and three car bombs driven by suicide bombers. The attackers also lobbed more than 100 mortar shells. They also used scores of missile shells and RPG's in addition to other intermediate and light weapons.''
Separately Monday, officials said a suicide bomber struck an Iraqi military convoy in Mosul, killing 25 people. No one has claimed responsibility for the attack.
A recent surge in sectarian violence across Iraq has claimed an estimated 600 lives since the start of July.