Busting Out! Most Infamous Prison Breaks in History: Iraq, Pakistan & More (PHOTOS)
A series of recent jailbreaks in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan has security experts worried that the insurgents are on the rebound. See how the latest escapes stack up against history’s most spectacular.
New York Daily News,via Getty John Dillinger
All it took for gangster John Dillinger to break out of an Indiana jail was
a piece of wood he whittled down to look like a gun. On March 3, 1934, as he was awaiting trial for the murder of a Chicago policeman, Dillinger used the “gun” to convince the guards to open his cell door. He stole two machine guns, locked up the prison staff, stole the sheriff’s car, and then fled to Chicago.
A prisoner revolt at the
Nazi death camp Sobibor in Poland on Oct. 14, 1943, left almost a dozen guards dead and allowed 300 inmates to escape. Almost 100 of the prisoners were recaptured immediately, and several more didn’t survive the war. Archaeologists later found evidence of escape tunnels at the camp, but it is unlikely they were ever used. The Nazis dismantled the facility and tried to cover it with dirt as the end of the war approached. Kandahar Prison Break
More than 500 Taliban fighters
broke out of a Kandahar prison in April 2011. They crawled through a 400-meter tunnel that originated outside the prison compound and passed under a highway and police checkpoints. The inmates began leaving the prison at 11 p.m., but authorities didn’t notice anyone was missing until 7:30 the next morning. Three years earlier, hundreds of prisoners were set free from the same prison when the Taliban launched a coordinated attack on the facility.
The Great Escape
In late March 1944, close to 80 Allied prisoners incarcerated at the Stalag Luft III camp
escaped through a tunnel. Most of the men were quickly recaptured. Fifty were shot on Hitler’s orders—which historians note were in clear violation of the Geneva Convention—and 23 others went back to the prison. Three prisoners, all of whom were part of the the British Royal Air Force, made their way to safety.
Cincinnati Museum Center,via Getty Libby Prison
In the most famous prison escape of the Civil War, 109 Union soldiers
broke out of the Libby Prison in Richmond, Va. They dug a tunnel through the floor of the basement, which was called Rat Hell because of an infestation, to a nearby tobacco shed. Close to 60 of the men were able to get away to freedom, while 48 were recaptured. Two drowned in a nearby river. Pakistan Prison Break
Taliban sprung about 250 Pakistani prisoners in July 2013. Militants attacked a 100-year-old facility in the city of Dera Ismail Khan with rocket-propelled grenades to break down the walls and rode onto prison grounds on motorbikes to help free the inmates. Of those who escaped, 30 were considered militants and five were women. The attack showed that the Pakistani Taliban, which has links to al Qaeda, has the ability to infiltrate Pakistan’s prison system successfully.
Federal Prison Supervision Service Oleg Topalov
Oleg Topalov is the fourth man in 20 years to escape from Russia’s notorious Matrosskaya Tishina prison. Charged with two counts of murder, last spring Topalov was able to pull himself through a hole he dug in the ceiling of his cell. He then climbed to the roof and got himself over the fence. The most impressive thing about this jailbreak story is how he appears to have dug the hole with nothing more than a spoon.
Abu Ghraib Jailbreak
Hundreds of inmates were sprung from Iraq’s notorious Abu Ghraib prison after a large-scale attack on the facility on July 22, 2013. Suicide bombers drove explosive-laden trucks to the gate at the same time gunmen shelled the prison with grenades and mortars, killing 10 policemen. Several high-ranking al Qaeda figures were freed in the fighting, leading experts to worry that the terrorist network is
regrouping and gaining strength.
Mountjoy Prison Escape
On Halloween 1973, three members of the Irish Republican Army
busted out of the Mountjoy Prison in Dublin. The daring escape included a stolen helicopter, which touched down in the prison’s exercise yard and picked up the inmates before disappearing. Prison guards were slow to act, believing the helicopter was carrying the defense minister. Twenty thousand members of the Irish Defense Forces and other agencies joined in a manhunt for the three convicts, all of whom were eventually returned to prison.
Switzerland Prison Break
Milan Poparovic, pictured right, was serving time in a Swiss prison for robbing a jewelry store in Neuchatel. Poparovic, a member of the Pink Panthers jewelry thief ring, and accomplice Adrian Albrecht escaped in late July after two men
rammed a gate with a vehicle, fired at the guards to keep them at bay, and then drove off with the two inmates. A manhunt is under way for the quartet. Escape From Alcatraz
In June 1962, three criminals attempted what was previously thought to be impossible:
escape from Alcatraz. Frank Morris and brothers John and Clarence Anglin weren’t in their beds when guards came by to check in the morning. Instead they found dummy heads constructed of cement, flesh-toned paint, and real hair. The three men escaped from their cells through air vents and then walked down an unguarded utility corridor before climbing to the roof of their cell block. They then attempted to paddle their way across San Francisco Bay. An investigation failed to determine whether the trio made it to land safely or died during the boat ride to shore.
The Texas Seven
In a well-planned and -coordinated escape, seven inmates at the John B. Connally Unit near Kenedy, Texas, broke out of prison on Dec. 13, 2000. Of the seven, only one had a sentence of less than 50 years. The group restrained 16 people including guards, maintenance workers, and other inmates, stealing clothing, credit cards, weapons, and a vehicle along the way. During the ensuing crime spree, the group
killed an Irving, Texas, policeman and was later featured on America's Most Wanted. Six of the seven were caught a little more than a month after initially escaping from prison and put on death row for killing a police officer. One committed suicide rather than go back to jail.