Nouakchott — At least 40 prisoners escaped in a jailbreak in a suburb of Mauritania's capital city, a senior official said Saturday.
The prisoners rushed the facility's main door early Saturday while guards were changing shifts, said the official, who insisted on anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press.
"The situation permitted them to attack the guard at the gate before fleeing," the official said.
None of the prisoners who escaped were suspected Islamic militants, the official said. By mid-morning on Saturday, seven prisoners were back in custody while security forces were searching for the others, the official said.
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The prison, located in the Dar Naim suburb of Nouakchott, houses about 1,200 prisoners, more than three times its intended capacity of 400.
Amnesty International has accused Mauritanian security forces of torturing detainees at Dar Naim prison and elsewhere. The organization's 2012 annual report said torture methods included "kicking, beating, suspension by the arms, shackling in painful positions and deprivation of sleep and food."
In December, a member of al-Qaida's North Africa branch escaped from a different facility in Mauritania and was caught several weeks later in Guinea.