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Prison break in Tunisia; at least 3 dozen at large

By The CNN Staff
September 2, 2013 -- Updated 1344 GMT (2144 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Thirteen of the escapees in Tunisia have been detained
  • There has been international concern over recent prison escapes
  • Prison breaks are a known strategy of al Qaeda, a CNN analyst says

(CNN) -- At least 49 inmates broke out of a prison in Tunisia on Sunday night, the country's state-run Tunis Afrique Presse reported.

Security forces have detained 13 of the escapees, according to the report, which cited a security source.

The incident occurred in Gabes, in the southeastern part of the North African country. It is the latest mass prison break in the turbulent Muslim world.

Recent prison breaks have been cited by analysts as one of several reasons the United States heightened its security and closed various embassies last month.

Prison breaks occurred last July in Pakistan, Iraq and Libya, and have been a known strategy of al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. Details are not known about who escaped from the Tunisian prison, but there are longstanding fears that militants are focusing on springing their fighters and leaders who are incarcerated.

CNN National Security Analyst Peter Bergen said that al Qaeda "actually announced a year ago that they were going to do this campaign of releasing prisoners from prison and they conducted something like seven prison assaults, a couple of which have been quite successful."

Interpol last month issued a global security alert, asking member nations to help determine whether the recent escapes are linked. It cited "suspected al Qaeda involvement in several of the breakouts which led to the escape of hundreds of terrorists and other criminals."

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