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Pakistani Taliban free hundreds from prison

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Al-Jazeera

Nearly 400 inmates of jail in Bannu, a town in country's northwest, escape following raid by anti-government fighters.

The attackers had apparently arranged for the transportation of the inmates from the jail.

Hundreds of prisoners are believed to have escaped from a jail in northwest Pakistan after it was attacked by anti-government fighters armed with guns and rocket-propelled grenades.

Some of those who escaped from the facility in the town of Bannu, in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, early on Sunday morning were "militants", an intelligence official told the Reuters news agency.

"Dozens of militants attacked Bannu's central jail in the early hours of the morning, and more 300 prisoners have escaped," Mir Sahib Jan, a senior official, said.

"There was intense gunfire, and rocket-propelled grenades were also used."

A prison official confirmed that "384 prisoners have escaped".

A police official identified one of the inmates who escaped as a "dangerous prisoner", who took part in one of the attempts to kill the former president, Pervez Musharraf.

Al Jazeera's Kamal Hyder, reporting from Lahore, said that the attack took place in the early morning and had resulted in an exchange of fire that had left several people wounded.

"After the attack the paramilitary and regular military forces came to that location and tried to surround the area. They have arrested up to a dozen men, but most of the people have indeed escaped," he said.

The injured were rushed to the local hospital in Bannu.

Sources told Al Jazeera that as many as 150 fighters were involved in the attack.

After blowing up the gates of the main prison at around 1:30am local time (20:30 GMT on Saturday), they entered the compound and freed the inmates, the sources said.

The attackers had arranged for the transportation of the inmates from the facility.

A police official told Reuters that the Bannu Central Jail held 944 prisoners in total, and that six cell blocks had been targeted in the attack.

The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), an umbrella organisation for anti-government groups that are loosely allied with the Taliban in Afghanistan and al-Qaeda, took responsibility for the attack.

Many of those who escaped following the raid were convicted TTP fighters, our correspondent said.

"We have freed hundreds of our comrades in Bannu in this attack. Several of our people have reached their destinations, others are on their way," a Taliban spokesman told Reuters.

A spokesman for Hakeemullah Mehsud, the leader of the TTP, told Al Jazeera that the group was responsible for the attack.

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