Bad news from Pakistan this weekend. A prison in Bannu in northwest Pakistan, an area known for having a heavy militant presence, was attacked by "hundreds of Taliban fighters", resulting in the escape of 384 of a possible 944 prisoners. Among those escapees are 21 high profile militants including several awaiting execution. The apparent target of the raid was a high level Taliban commander, but it is uncertain whether he escaped or not since prisoner records were burned in the attack. Four prison officials were wounded. The Pakistani Taliban has claimed responsibility for the attack.
This raid is unfortunate news for several reasons. First, there are now 384 criminals, terrorists, and future terrorists walking free in northern Pakistan. These all have to be recaptured. This is a substantial influx of manpower to terrorist groups in the area and will no doubt add to the instability in the region and in Afghanistan. Secondly, it reflects very poorly on the Pakistani prison system and on Pakistan itself. This type of prison break is almost unheard of. Hopefully Pakistan will learn from the event and address lax security at other prisons holding high profile targets. This leads us to the obvious question; how did the Taliban orchestrate this massive operation on their own? An official speaking about the situation said "A soul-searching investigation is underway to answer some big questions. "How were the militants allowed to block routes to the jail before the attack? Why didn't the reinforcements arrive?" It sounds like this confirms rumors that Pakistani government employees are working with terrorist groups in the region. It may not be the ISI or Army as previously accused, however, for such an operation to take place, with only four prison officials wounded and none killed, it sounds like the Taliban had help on the inside to break these prisoners out.
This incident reduces any confidence the U.S. had left in Pakistan as staunch allies in the war on terror. This is just one of several incidents in recent memory implicating Pakistan in aiding terrorist groups and individuals. The U.S. will not be pleased with the break out and are going to need to work with Pakistani officials to get a handle on exactly who escaped and assess the possible threat to U.S./Afghan interests.