Up to 100 attackers, some wearing police uniforms, bombarded the prison with rockets and mortars before going inside.
An ensuing gun battle raged for three or four hours.
Katherine Houreld, a correspondent for Reuters news agency, told the BBC it had been a "very sophisticated attack - they blew the electricity line, they breached the walls and they set ambushes for reinforcements".
"When the shooting started, we immediately got into an armed police vehicle and parked on the road in front of the main gate," injured policeman Hidayat Ullah told AP news agency from his hospital bed.
"After this, we heard an explosion and the main gate exploded. After this, we started shooting towards the main gate from our armed vehicle.
"During this time, maybe either a rocket launcher or a mortar shell hit the vehicle. Two of our policemen were killed on the spot, and three of us were injured. We got down from the armed vehicle, and after that I don't know what happened."
Once inside the prison, the attackers used loudspeakers to call out the names of specific inmates before rigging up booby traps around the prison to cover their escape.
The jailbreak is the third major attack in Pakistan in the span of a week- two bombs at a marketplace in the border town of Parachinar reportedly killed 57 people and 9 people were killed in an attack targeting the offices of Pakistan's ISI intelligence agency on July 24th. This is also the third major jailbreak in an Islamic majority nation in a week following a brazen prison raid in Iraq and more than 1000 prisoners being freed in Benghazi, Libya over the weekend. In May 2012, the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistani freed more than 400 inmates from a prison compound in Bannu- about two hours from Dera Ismail Khan- after blowing up the front gate of the prison with anti-tank weaponry and spiriting away inmates on waiting motorcoaches.
Officials say they had received intelligence about a possible jailbreak several weeks ago and moved certain high-value inmates to more secure facilities. However, the jailbreaks have led some to question whether or not the Taliban could count on a certain amount of complicity or collusion from prison officials.