B annu: The government’s claim of successfully establishing its writ in unstable Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) after a planned Taliban operation in Bannu jail has come into serious question.
Taliban’s planned operation in Bannu jail has also raised concerns over the jail’s current security set up.
A common sentiment is that if 150 militants can travel down the hills and take command of the jail, they could just as well take control of Bannu city.
The security of the high profile prison seems to be full proof only on paper.
Surrounded by open fields, the jail is located opposite the posh Bannu Township, at a ten minute drive from the Frontier Region (FR) Peng. It’s also within two Kilometers of three police stations.
The jail has three entry gates and the outermost gate is called the Phatak gate, and is situated on the main road.
One person is deployed at each of the four search towers. At the Phatak Gate, two armed men are deployed. In addition, there are three other men at the gate, one with an AK 47, another with a register to enter names of visitors and a third assigned with the duty to frisk visitors.
A total of 151 police personnel are supposed to keep the jail secure, but on the day the militants mounted the assault, only 119 policemen were present and only 21 were performing their duties, say media reports.
According to media reports, eight policemen had been lent to Dera Ismail Khan Jail and four to Karak Jail. In addition, ten others were on leave and six were found absent from their duties.
A police official said that the first target of the Taliban was a search tower located just beside the Phatak gate which was blown up when a rocket was fired at it. Rockets were used to shatter the first and third gates, and hand grenades were used to smash the second.
“What could we do, they were above a hundred in strength with the latest weapons and we only had five Kalashnikovs. Tell me honestly, could you face such a situation?” the police official said.
The police official then called his brother and told him what was happening.
“I could clearly see my death. I thought my last moments had arrived and I was going to be slaughtered or shot to death,” he said, adding that two members of the jail police who were deployed at the death cell, climbed up a tree to save their lives.
Two other policemen wore prisoners’ uniform as a cover and ran with the prisoners, unarmed and fearing for their lives.
“I called them to inquire about them but I started laughing when I came to know they had also escaped with the prisoners,” the official said.
The official said those who returned to jail informed the authorities that the group after entering the FR area asked all the prisoners if they were willing to leave for Miranshah. Those who declined were dropped off in Peng.
“Those who returned said suicide bombers and explosive-laden vehicles were also dispatched for the attack but returned as fresh as dispatched”, the official added.
Officials have said that all those rearrested or who returned voluntarily, will not be awarded further punishment as they were forced to escape.