36 killed as 40 inmates escape Iraq prison, police say

Forty inmates in a prison in eastern Iraq, including some convicted of terrorism charges, have escaped amid a riot that killed at least six police officers and 30 prisoners, Iraq's Interior Ministry spokesman said Saturday.

There were conflicting casualty reports on the attack at the Khalis prison in Diyala province. Two provincial police officials and a medical official put the toll much higher, saying 51 inmates and 12 policemen were killed, while more than 200 inmates escaped. They spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to release the information.

Brig. Gen. Saad Maan Ibrahim, the Interior Ministry spokesman, told The Associated Press that a fight broke out first among the inmates of the prison and when guards went to investigate, they were overpowered and had their weapons taken. There are hundreds of inmates in the prison.

Some of those that escaped were wanted on terrorism charges, Ibrahim added. He said security forces were cordoning off the area, hunting for the escaped inmates.

The town of Khalis is located about 50 miles north of Baghdad.

Jailbreaks are common in Iraq and usually a result of assaults from militants seeking to free their comrades in prison. Ibrahim said, however, that there was no external attack that sparked the Khalis riot.