Afghanistan: Hundreds escape from Kandahar prison

by reuters

More than 470 inmates at a prison in southern Afghanistan have escaped through a tunnel hundreds of metres long and dug from outside the jail.

Officials in the city of Kandahar said that many of those who escaped were Taliban insurgents.

The Kandahar provincial governor’s office said some had since been recaptured but gave no further details.

A spokesman for the Taliban said it had dug the 320m (1,050ft) tunnel and that it had taken five months to construct.

Zabiullah Mujahid said about 100 of those who escaped were Taliban commanders, and most of the others were fighters with the insurgency.

Correspondents say the Taliban often make exaggerated claims.

Second jailbreak

“A tunnel hundreds of metres long was dug from the south of the prison into the prison and 476 political prisoners escaped last night,” said prison director General Ghulam Dastageer Mayar.

The prison holds about 1,200 inmates

One escapee told the BBC it had taken him about 30 minutes to walk the length of the tunnel. The escape took most of the night and vehicles were waiting at the exit point to take prisoners away.

It is thought that the tunnel was dug from a house outside the prison walls.

The jailbreak is the second major escape from the prison in three years.

In June 2008 a suicide bomber blew open the Kandahar prison gates and destroyed a nearby checkpoint, freeing about 900 prisoners, many of them suspected insurgents.

After that, millions of pounds were spent upgrading the prison. The 2008 breakout was followed by a major upsurge in violence.

The prison is under Afghan control, but Nato-led International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) said it was ready to provide assistance if requested by Afghan officials.

Nato forces are preparing for the long process of withdrawal from Afghanistan. The first stage is the transfer of security powers to local forces from July, but Kandahar is not among the first tranche of provinces and cities to be handed over to the Afghans.

Analysts say that it is only to be expected that those regions will once again be the focus of insurgent activity as the Taliban will be planning to seize them back.

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