BAGHDAD, Dec 28 (AFP): Twenty Iraqi detainees and a prison officer were shot dead in a failed jail break in Baghdad Wednesday, as the country's dominant Shiites and Kurds worked on the formation of a new government.
Prisoners stole a weapon from a guard at an Iraqi detention facility in the northern Shiite pilgrimage district of Kadhamiyah, before shooting dead one prison officer and wounding another, an interior ministry official told AFP.
Warders then opened fire on the detainees, killing 20.
"The guards opened fire to protect themselves, and to regain control of the situation," the official told AFP, asking not be identified.
A US military official in Baghdad said the incident was under investigation.
Many of those detained at the prison are held on terrorism charges.
Five prisoners successfully escaped from the detention centre last month, according to the justice ministry.
Some 500 Iraqis and 166 foreigners are currently held on terrorism charges in Iraq-run facilities, according to the director of prisons, General Juma Hussein Zamel.
A further 14,000 detainees are held in US-run prisons, with another 500 or so detained at US bases, the US military said.
The abortive breakout came as Shiite and Kurdish politicians met to thrash out a new government line-up after leaders of the long oppressed Shiite majority rejected calls from Sunni Arab and secular parties for a re-run of December 15 elections.
Abdel Aziz Hakim, leader of a formerly Iran-based religious party that is one of the main planks of the Shiite United Iraqi Alliance which is poised to win the landmark poll, was due to meet President Jalal Talabani after holding talks with his fellow Kurdish politician Massud Barzani on Tuesday.