The prison guards were counting inmates after the evening meal at Abu Ghraib jail when suddenly the lights went out. By the time they realized what was going on, the biggest combat operation by Iraqi insurgents in five years was under way.
Prisoners set clothes on fire and rioted inside the jail. Militants attacked it from outside with rocket-propelled grenades. A suicide bomber driving a car packed with explosives blasted his way through the main gate.
When security forces backed by helicopter gunships finally regained control early the following morning, more than 500 convicts, among them senior al Qaeda operatives, were on the run, eliciting an international alert from Interpol which described the jailbreak as a major threat to global security.