A senior Mauritanian official says at least 40 prisoners escaped in a jailbreak outside the capital.

The official said the prisoners rushed the facility's main door early Saturday while guards were changing shifts. The official said none of the prisoners who escaped Saturday were suspected Islamic militants. The official insisted on anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press.

The official said seven prisoners were back in custody and that officials were searching for the others. Amnesty International has accused Mauritanian security forces of torturing detainees at the prison, located in the Dar Naim suburb of Nouakchott.

In December, a member of al-Qaida's North Africa branch escaped from a different prison in Mauritania and was caught several weeks later.