BAGHDAD (AP) — Prisoners seized weapons and set off hours-long clashes with security guards at a prison in Saddam Hussein’s hometown that left 12 dead, including 10 guards, before dozens of inmates managed to escape from the facility, Iraqi officials said today.

Many of those who escaped from the prison in Tikrit, 80 miles north of Baghdad, were al-Qaida suspects, said a provincial spokesman but he could not say whether the terror group was behind the prison break.

The violence erupted on Thursday night, said Mohammed al-Assi, the spokesman for Salahuddin province where Tikrit is located. Several inmates broke into the prison storeroom and grabbed weapons kept there, overpowering the guards, he said.

The prisoners then engaged in an hours-long gun battle with the security troops inside the facility before breaking out of the prison this morning. Security troops later regained control of the prison, al-Assi said.

Following the prison break, a curfew was imposed in Tikrit, he added.

“Everything is under control now. Our security forces are chasing the escaped prisoners and have already recaptured some,” al-Assi told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.

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