A suspected Sunni Arab insurgent with ties to the group Al Qaeda in Iraq persuaded a prison guard to open his cell door, then overpowered him and stole his weapon, setting off a deadly riot that left 13 people dead in Ramadi, west of Baghdad, authorities said.
Seven detainees, including the suspected insurgent, and six police officers were killed in the clash early Friday.
Three suspected Islamist militants escaped and a fourth turned himself in without incident, said Tareq Yusuf Dulaimi, Anbar province police chief. One of the escapees is considered a high-ranking leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq and has confessed to killing at least three police officers, authorities said.
Ramadi Mayor Latif Obaid Ayada blamed a negligent prison guard, who unlocked a cell while carrying his AK-47 assault rifle. “They attacked our policeman and killed him,” Ayada said. “They did their dirty trick and exploited his humanity for trying to help the sick prisoner.”
Dulaimi said police officers gained control of the situation quickly, containing most of the three dozen prisoners held in one of two cells at the station. In all, about 11 suspects escaped their cells. Three were killed in the jail and three died outside the station. Police chased a seventh inmate about 10 miles before fatally shooting him.
Authorities immediately instituted a curfew at 5 a.m., which lasted through the day. Police searched large swaths of Anbar for the three remaining escapees. Some roads were closed.
“The citizens of Anbar condemn the jailbreak,” Ayada said in an interview on Al Arabiya TV. “There is no return for terrorism in Ramadi -- not today, nor in the future -- because the police forces in Anbar are in full control.”
At least 10 police officers were wounded in the attack, which authorities believe may have been premeditated. They were being treated at a hospital in Ramadi.
A correspondent in Ramadi and Times staff writers in Baghdad contributed to this report.