Hundreds of inmates flee Abu Ghraib prison

Tease the day: Massive prison break shows all is not well in Iraq

Abu Ghraib prison in 2006. (Khalid Mohammed/AP)

Imagine, just for a second, the mood in your community if a single inmate broke out of a nearby jail or prison. What if they had help from someone on the outside? What if three or four people escaped? Think about the headlines, no matter the danger posed by the escapees. Likely, there would be calls for public inquiries and resignations and, maybe, questions about funding cuts at correctional facilities. In other words, a single escapee could spark a lot of serious questions.

Imagine, for just one more second, if hundreds of inmates busted loose. Yesterday, while the world was enraptured by the birth of an heir to the British throne, 500 inmates—including senior al-Qaeda officials—fled the Baghdad Central Prison (a.k.a. the infamous Abu Ghraib facility) after militants assaulted, overwhelmed and breached the prison’s defences. The Guardian described the scene.

Suicide bombers drove cars packed with explosives to the gates of the prison on the outskirts of Baghdad on Sunday night and blasted their way into the compound, while gunmen attacked guards with mortars and rocket-propelled grenades.

Other militants took up positions near the main road, fighting off security reinforcements sent from Baghdad as militants wearing suicide vests entered the prison on foot to help free the inmates.

Ten policemen and four militants were killed in the ensuing clashes, which continued until Monday morning, when military helicopters arrived, helping to regain control.

Another attack on a prison in nearby Taji was less successful. The Associated Press points out that the assaults aren’t exactly isolated incidents.

A surge of violence across Iraq has killed more than 3,000 people since the start of April, and the assaults on the prisons laid bare the degree to which security has eroded in the country in recent months.

For most of us, Abu Ghraib is a distant memory—a relic of the U.S.-led invasion of a country, where detainees were embarrassed by their American captors; a symbol of the brutality of the nebulous War on Terror; a scar on a country riddled with scars. Now, the prison reminds some of us, through all our various preoccupations with other places and people and things,  just how much we stopped paying attention to Iraq.

What’s above the fold this morning?

The Globe and Mail leads with the birth of the next heir to the British throne. The National Post fronts the heir’s gender: “It’s a boy!” The Toronto Star goes above the fold with the heir’s gender, styled differently: “It’s a prince!” The Ottawa Citizen leads with the royal baby boy and celebration in Canada’s capital. iPolitics fronts a lament for the demise of the global responsibility to protect doctrine of humanitarian intervention. leads with the expected “world debut” of the royal baby. CTV News leads with the first day of parenting for the duke and duchess of Cambridge. National Newswatch showcases a Postmedia story about potential charges laid against Peterborough MP Dean Del Mastro over alleged overspending during the 2008 election campaign.

Stories that will be (mostly) missed

1. PBO. Several federal departments have ignored the Parliamentary Budget Office’s request for data surrounding federal cuts announced in the 2012 budget—refusals that could spur legal action. 2. Ethics. The chief of staff to Defence Minister Rob Nicholson, Maureen Murphy, will likely recuse herself from a number of files due to her husband’s work as a defence lobbyist.
3. Labour unrest. Foreign service workers’ ongoing strike has cut down the number of visas issued overseas, discouraged tourism and inhibited foreign students’ efforts to be educated in Canada. 4. Poverty. More Canadians than ever before live above the country’s rough measure of a poverty line, Statistics Canada’s Low-Income Cut-Off, which was reported earlier this summer.
5. Earthquake. At least 75 people near the city of Dingxi in China’s Gansu province died when an earthquake destroyed buildings and blocked rescue workers from hundreds of injured residents. 6. Middle East. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hoped a referendum on a peace deal with the Palestinians would help protect his coalition, but it has caused a split in cabinet.

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