Eighteen people were killed during a wild and brazen late night prison siege on Saturday. Senior leaders of the terrorist organization, Al-Qaida, in Iraq were killed, as were eight prison guards during the jail break attempt.
Senior leaders of the terror group were inmates at the Interior Ministry Counterterrorism Jail Complex in Baghdad's central Karrada district, a predominately upper middle class section of the city. It can't be confirmed whether the ten inmates killed were all associated with Al Qaida.
Among the senior leaders being interned at the correctional facility were Huthaifa al-Batawi. Batawi was severing a prison sentence at the facility for being the mastermind behind the infamous attack on Our Lady of Salvation church in Baghdad. The attack which took place on Oct. 31 of last year saw members of the terrorist group attack the church with assault rifles. The massacre claimed the lives of 50 Iraqi Christian parishioners.
The attack on the church and the violence and uncertainty it wrought has reportedly helped drive more of the country’s dwindling population of Christians to seek safety in the north, or leave Iraq entirely.
Batawi, who was arguably the most dangerous man in the facility, was one of 38 other al-Qaida prisoners who played a role in the attack at that church.
The correctional facility itself had a total of 200 prisoners, the majority of whom are terrorists that belong to al-Qaida in Iraq.
According to The New York Times, the chaos began at 10 p.m. on Saturday when Batawi was able to seize the handgun of a ranking prison official who was escorting him.
Batawi shot the guard in the head and then proceeded to release nine other prisoners, all of whom were also ranking members of the terror group.
Batawi and the other nine newly freed senior leadership of al-Qaida in Iraq came upon an armory in the complex and loaded up on weapons and grenades before going on a bloody rampage that would see seven other guards killed.
The terror inmates were able to control a section of the jail and hold a small army of authorities at bay for several hours.
On Sunday at 4 p.m., a counter-terrorism police SWAT team stormed and reclaimed the facility after a fierce gun battle. All ten of the would-be escapees, including Batawi, were slain in the dynamic police assault.
Authorities said that Batawi was not handcuffed while he was being escorted and acknowledged that this lapse in judgement allowed Batawi to overpower the guard and kill him with his own weapon before initiating a mini-take over of the jail.
Prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, released a statement saying that he had formed a committee to investigate the incident as well as allegations that security is lax throughout the Iraqi detention facilities at a national level.
The deaths of Batawi and nine other senior leaders of al-Qaida in Iraq is the latest in a series of stunning and crushing setbacks for the al-Qaida network as a whole.
The recent death of terror lord Osama bin Laden by U.S. forces was a crushing blow to the main al-Qaida organization based in Afghanistan as well as it's various satellite groups.
Iraqi intelligence agents had been at the the correctional facility a few days earlier to question al-Qaida detainees out of concern of reprisal attacks following Bin Laden's death.
Batawi's death as well as those of the other senior members during the prison uprising is likely to be keenly felt by the Iraqi off-shoot of al-Qaida as it has suffered and struggled for the past several years because of a lack of leadership and direction.
The terror group has experienced a significant leadership and tactical talent drain since it's original founder and leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was killed by U.S. military Special Operations units during a targeted airstrike in the Summer of 2006.