Hundreds of inmates escape Abu Ghraib in violent prison break

Hundreds of prisoners, including senior members of al Qaeda, escaped from Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison on Monday in a violent break out.

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The convicts escaped during a military assault by allies to free them, according to multiple reports.

Cars carrying explosives were driven to the front gates of the prison on Sunday night and gunmen shot at guards with rocket propelled grenades and mortar explosives. The fighting continued through Monday morning.

The raid on the prison was conducted by Sunni Muslim militants on Monday, according to Reuters. 

As of the latest reporting, four militants and 10 police officers had died from the fighting.

Officials estimated as many as 500 inmates escaped, even as authorities were able to recapture some of the convicts. The majority of inmates who escaped were al Qaeda members on death row, according to the British Sky News service.

One prison official told Reuters the break out was an "obvious" attack by terrorists carried out by al Qaeda. 

The Abu Ghraib prison gained notoriety after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, when photos of U.S. soldiers abusing prisoners were released.

Iraq's government is led by Shiites, who have been dealing with Sunni Muslim insurgents. Sunnis had been in control of the government under Saddam Hussein.

Updated at 7:12 p.m.