16 Al Qaeda Iraqi Prisoners Escape Tikrit Prison

By: (CNN)
By: (CNN)

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- A large scale manhunt was under way Thursday after 16 al Qaeda in Iraq members escaped from a Tikrit prison, according to Iraqi police officials.

The prisoners fled through an air vent and then climbed over a concrete wall around 10:30 p.m. local time Wednesday, Iraqi police officials in Salah Al Din Province in Tikrit told CNN.

Five of the men had been sentenced to death. One of those five was found and recaptured Thursday morning, police said.

Among the crimes the men had been sentenced to prison for included killings, kidnappings and making explosive devices, according to police.

The Iraqi Interior Ministry has taken charge of the investigation and all prison guards at Tikrit are now being investigated. The prison holds more than 400 prisoners.

Al Qaeda in Iraq is an insurgent group that pledged its allegiance to Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda terror network in 2004, after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. Its membership has been largely native Iraqi but it also includes foreign fighters and foreigners have been the group's prominent leaders.

Tikrit is the hometown of deposed Iraqi leader, Saddam Hussein. It is about 160 km (99 miles) north of Baghdad.

-- CNN's Mohammed Jamjoom contributed to this report.

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