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Page last updated at 12:12 GMT, Thursday, 24 September 2009 13:12 UK

'Al-Qaeda group' flees Iraq jail

Iraqi police stand guard at a checkpoint in Tikrit
The Iraqi police were offered US military help with the search

Sixteen members of al-Qaeda in Iraq have escaped from a prison north of Baghdad, Iraqi security officials say.

Reports said five of the group, who were being held at a facility in Tikrit, had been sentenced to death for involvement in attacks.

A security official said that the men removed the windows from a bathroom, crawled through the opening and climbed a ladder over the prison walls.

One of the men has since been caught, but the rest remain at large.

Checkpoints have been set up around Tikrit, which is a predominantly Sunni town in Salah al-Din province about 80 miles (130km) from Baghdad.

Iraqi military spokesman Maj Gen Abdul-Karim Khalaf said extra surveillance had also been ordered at Iraq's borders and throughout the north-west of the country.

A senior provincial security official told AFP news agency that the escapees had probably received assistance from within the prison system.

"It is clear there was co-operation with specific groups that helped them escape. Probably one of the officials helped them," he said.

In a separate development, 24 people have been arrested in Morocco on suspicion of having links to a cell recruiting suicide bombers for Iraq, according to a state news agency.

It said the group, based in towns and cities across Morocco, was also suspected of recruiting men to fight in Somalia and Afghanistan.



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