BAGHDAD — Al-Qaida’s branch in Iraq claimed responsibility Tuesday for audacious raids on two high-security prisons on the outskirts of Baghdad this week that killed dozens and set free hundreds of inmates, including some of its followers.
The statement from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, the al-Qaida affiliate in Iraq, was posted on an online jihadist forum. It said months of planning went into the highly coordinated assaults on the prisons in Abu Ghraib and Taji that began late Sunday.
The attacks, among the most stunning in Iraq since a surge in violence began in April, have drawn sharp criticism from opposition lawmakers and ordinary Iraqis over government efforts to keep the country safe. The spike in bloodshed is intensifying fears of a return to the widespread sectarian killing that pushed the country to the brink of civil war after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.
In its statement, al-Qaida in Iraq said the prison operation involved 12 car bombs, military-style barrages of rockets and mortar shells, suicide bombers, and help from prisoners who had managed to obtain weapons on the inside.
Iraqi officials have said at least 25 members of the Iraqi security forces were killed in the attacks, along with at least 21 prisoners and 10 militants.
Al-Qaida boasted that its men killed more than 120 government forces and claimed that on its side, only the suicide bombers died in clashes that raged for hours.