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Pakistan prison attacked by Taliban lacked guards

Only a few poorly armed guards were on duty at a Pakistani prison earlier this week when it was attacked by Taliban militants, allowing 250 inmates to escape.

pakistan prison breakEnlarge
Pakistani policemen stand outside the Central Prison after an overnight armed Taliban militant attack in Dera Ismail Khan, in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province on July 30, 2013. Taliban insurgents freed hundreds of prisoners including hardline militants in a brazen assault on a jail in northwest Pakistan that was bombarded with mortars and rocket-propelled grenades, officials said. At least 12 people including six police, four prisoners and two attackers were killed in the overnight assault which triggered a three-hour gunbattle between security forces and militants disguised in police uniforms. (STR/AFP/Getty Images)

Only a few poorly armed guards were on duty at a Pakistani prison earlier this week when it was attacked by Taliban militants, allowing 250 inmates to escape.

The lack of guards was not considered an issue, the prison chief noted on Wednesday, even though the government had intelligence that the facility was under threat days, if not weeks, before it was attacked.

The 35 guards at Dera Ismail Khan jail faced 150 attackers, and only 10 of them had weapons. Some were said to be so scared during the Monday night assault that they hid in sewer pipes. Others opened one of the prison's main gates after being threatened by the militants.

"Most policemen ran for their lives once the attack started, leaving their weapons behind," a senior official told Reuters. "They could have easily killed some of the attackers but they even gave up their own guns, providing the attackers with more ammo."

While most officials blamed a combination of negligence and lack of communication among Pakistan's security agencies, some suggested that insider help might have also led to the successful prison break.

More from GlobalPost: Pakistan: 250 freed in Taliban prison attack

"It is very difficult to attack such a place without proper information or contacts," said a police source on condition of anonymity, adding that some prisoners were thought to have used cellphone provided by sympathetic wardens to get in touch with Taliban members.

"They are corrupt, lazy and unprofessional. And the militants may have supporters in the city."

Two other prison breaks, this time in Iraq, were carried out by the country's regional Al Qaeda affiliate earlier this week. The raids on the high-security prisons, located on the outskirts of Baghdad, killed dozens and set hundreds of inmates and Al Qaeda followers free.

Since then Al Qaeda has threatened to free inmates from Guantanamo Bay as well.

The group's leader, Ayman al-Zawahri, spoke in a 22-minute audio message posted online.

"The strike by our brothers in Guantanamo reveals the real odious and ugly face of America," he said. Some of the 166 prisoners held at the Cuban prison began a hunger strike earlier this year to protest conditions and their indefinite confinement.

"We pledge God that we will spare no efforts to set them free along with all our prisoners, on top of them Omar Abdel Rahman, Aafia Siddiqui, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and every oppressed Muslim everywhere."