Nineteen detainees, including two men sentenced to death and several alleged Al-Qaeda leaders, escaped from a prison in northern Iraq on Friday, in what one politician said was an inside job.
"Nineteen people, including members of Al-Qaeda and Ansar al-Sunna, fled from prison in Kirkuk at around 3:30 am (0030 GMT)," a security official said on condition of anonymity.
Kirkuk province's deputy governor and a provincial council member confirmed the prison break.
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The group apparently drugged guards and fellow inmates using narcotic-laced dates that put them to sleep before breaking out of Al-Tasfirat prison in central Kirkuk, 240 kilometres (150 miles) north of Baghdad.
Of the 19, two were sentenced to death, while 17 faced various accusations including murder.
The group was made up of alleged Al-Qaeda insurgents and fighters belonging to Ansar al-Sunna, a Salafist group that has claimed several attacks against US and Iraqi security forces, the security official said.
An AFP journalist said security forces in Kirkuk shut off entrances to the city, and launched a manhunt.
"We consider today's incident to be very clear negligence by the security forces," said Abdullah al-Asi, a Kirkuk provincial councillor, alleging the prison break was an inside job.