A dozen militants escape Iraq prison

A dozen suspected members of Al-Qaeda's front group in Iraq escaped from a prison in the south of the country on Friday morning, police said.

"Twelve members of Al-Qaeda escaped in the early hours of the morning from a prison in the centre of Basra," the capital of the eponymous southern province, a policemen said on condition of anonymity.

"These men stand accused of the attacks carried out recently in Basra," he said, referring to a car bomb on November 8 in the main southern city, 450 kilometres (280 miles) south of Baghdad, that left 10 dead and 30 wounded.

The group was among those arrested around two weeks after the attacks but had yet to stand trial.

Police in Basra have mounted a major operation to capture the fugitives, including searching nearby houses and establishing new checkpoints, according to an AFP journalist in the city.

Basra province is crucial to Iraq's economy as 80 percent of the country's oil exports, which comprise the vast majority of government income, pass through it before being shipped overseas.

Despite being considered one of the safest provinces in Iraq, attacks do still occur, with the November blast among the most high-profile.

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