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DERA ISMAIL KHAN - Taliban militants have freed 243 prisoners in an assault on a prison in north-west Pakistan, officials say.

The attack in the town of Dera Ismail Khan began with huge explosions at around midnight on Monday (15:00 GMT). Gunmen then opened fire with rocket-propelled grenades and machine-guns, police chief Sohail Khalid said. About 70 attackers were in police uniform.

Twelve people - including six police officers - were killed in the gun battle that raged for three or four hours after militants launched their assault.

The town's prison houses hundreds of Taliban and militants from banned groups. The town's civil commissioner Mushtaq Jadoon said that 30 hardened militants jailed for their involvement in major attacks or suicide bombings were among those who escaped.

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