BAGHDAD - Three suspected insurgents fled a jail in the western city of Ramadi yesterday after overpowering guards, Iraqi officials said. The jailbreak led to a gunfight in which six policemen and seven suspected insurgents were killed, authorities said.
Iraqi security forces hunted for the three escapees, who included a top leader of the Sunni insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq.
The jailbreak comes as U.S. officials are shutting down their detention facilities across Iraq and as U.S. troops are sharply reducing their presence in Anbar province, a predominantly Sunni territory that was the cradle of the insurgency. Ramadi is the capital of Anbar.
The incident occurred at 3:30 a.m. as guards were escorting a group of inmates from an interrogation room to a cell, said Maj. Gen. Tariq al-Duleimiy, the Ramadi police chief.
He said a suspected insurgent told authorities that the operation had been planned.
"The plan was to grab a weapon from the guards" to flee, he said.
Lt. Col. Abdul Ghani al-Duleimiy, chief of the jail, was among those killed in the shootout, Iraqi officials said.
Iraqi officials imposed a curfew in Ramadi, limiting vehicle and pedestrian traffic as they searched for the suspected insurgents, who were believed to have fled on foot.