Baghdad U.S. aircraft and Iraqi patrols combined in a massive manhunt Thursday after the escape of 16 prisoners — including five al-Qaida-linked inmates awaiting execution — who apparently crawled through a bathroom window in a makeshift jail on a former compound of Saddam Hussein.
The jailbreak in Saddam’s hometown Tikrit highlighted the struggles for Iraqi authorities to maintain control over an overcrowded prison system and absorb thousands of detainees turned over by U.S. forces as part of a broad security pact.
At least two senior officials were fired after the late Wednesday escape.
Few details on the fugitives were provided by Iraqi security chiefs. But five were Iraqis who were sentenced to death for terrorism-related crimes and links to al-Qaida in Iraq, said a Tikrit police officer, on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the operation with media.