Hundreds of convicts, including senior members of al Qaeda, broke out of Iraq's Abu Ghraib jail as comrades launched a military-style assault to free them, authorities said on Monday.
The deadly raid on the high-security jail happened as Sunni Muslim militants are re-gaining momentum in their insurgency against the Shiite-led government that came to power after the U.S. invasion to oust Saddam Hussein.
Suicide bombers drove cars packed with explosives to the gates of the prison on the outskirts of Baghdad on Sunday night and blasted their way into the compound, while gunmen attacked guards with mortars and rocket-propelled grenades.
Other militants took up positions near the main road, fighting off security reinforcements sent from Baghdad as several militants wearing suicide vests entered the prison on foot to help free the inmates.
Ten policemen and four militants were killed in the ensuing clashes, which continued until Monday morning, when military helicopters arrived, helping to regain control.
By that time, hundreds of inmates had succeeded in fleeing Abu Ghraib, the prison made notorious a decade ago by photographs showing abuse of prisoners by U.S. soldiers.
Payback has apparently been organized rather quickly.
The al Qaeda threat that closed U.S. embassies in the Middle East on Sunday is the most serious in years and the "chatter" among suspected terrorists is reminiscent of what preceded the September 11 attacks, a U.S. lawmaker who is briefed on intelligence said.
The State Department closed 21 embassies and consulates and issued a worldwide travel alert warning Americans that al Qaeda may be planning attacks in August, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa.
"There is an awful lot of chatter out there," Senator Saxby Chambliss, the top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said on NBC's "Meet the Press."
He said the "chatter" - communications among terrorism suspects about the planning of a possible attack - was "very reminiscent of what we saw pre-9/11."
Pretty obvious the two are related. The timing however is rotten. Not even Bush went this far. If after 12 years of fighting these guys there's a prison break and we're closing embassies, we were never winning in the first place, were we?
This all has a familiar stink to it, and I don't like it one bit.