Iraq prison convoy ambush kills 60 as UN chief visits

 A man walks past a burnt bus in Taji, north of Baghdad on Thursday, July 24, 2014. An onslaught on a convoy transferring inmates north of Baghdad left dozens dead on Thursday, as visiting UN chief Ban Ki Moon said Iraq's survival hinged on
 A man walks past a burnt bus in Taji, north of Baghdad on Thursday, July 24, 2014. An onslaught on a convoy transferring inmates north of Baghdad left dozens dead on Thursday, as visiting UN chief Ban Ki Moon said Iraq's survival hinged on a more inclusive government. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

BAGHDAD (AFP) - An onslaught on a convoy transferring inmates north of Baghdad left dozens dead on Thursday, as visiting UN chief Ban Ki Moon said Iraq's survival hinged on a more inclusive government.

Most of the 60 killed in the spectacular pre-dawn ambush were prisoners convicted of terrorism charges being transferred from Taji prison, barely 25km north of the capital.

Explosions from the attack were heard in some neighbourhoods of Baghdad, where UN chief Ban Ki Moon landed Thursday on an unscheduled stop in his Middle East tour.

"At least 60 people, prisoners and policemen, were killed in a suicide attack followed by several IEDs (improvised explosive devices) and shooting," an interior ministry official told AFP.

One security source said the inmates were being transferred as a precautionary measure after Taji prison was hit by mortar fire on Wednesday.

The exact circumstances of Thursday's attack were not immediately clear, nor how many attackers were dead or how the prisoners they were apparently trying to free were killed.

The bus was believed to be transporting around 60 prisoners, and medics said 54 of those killed in the attack were inmates.

Most of the bodies were burnt beyond recognition, they said.

Government forces were recently accused by rights watchdogs of having executed more than 250 prisoners since June 9.

Among the allegations are that members of the Iraqi security forces shot prisoners, on the grounds they were sympathetic to advancing forces from the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group, that jails were set on fire and that grenades were tossed into cells.