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Taliban escape in Afghanistan jail break

Latest update : 2008-06-14

Hundreds of Taliban rebels imprisoned in the southern city of Kandahar escaped after a brazen suicide attack that killed at least two guards. Militants blew past the front gates, entered the prison and freed perhaps 600 men. (Report: C. Norris-Trent)

Taliban rebels blasted into a prison using a suicide car bomb and guns late Friday, freeing as many as hundreds of militant prisoners and killing at least two guards, officials said.

The brazen attack under cover of darkness ripped through the front entrance of the main jail in the insurgency-hit southern city of Kandahar, Justice Minister Sarwar Danish told AFP.

The raid is a blow to President Hamid Karzai, coming one day after world donors pledged 20 billion dollars to rebuild Afghanistan at a conference in Paris but also called on him to strengthen the rule of law.

"A suicide attacker drove his way into the main gate of the prison, it was very strong and destroyed the gate and two sides of the surrounding wall," Danish told AFP.

He said it was followed by an "armed attack inside the prison."

"A number of prisoners have been taken away from the prison. We don't know exactly how many people were in the prison and how many prisoners have managed to escape," he said, adding that an investigation was underway.

An Afghan intelligence official told AFP on condition of anonymity that around 600 prisoners were believed to have escaped but that the final figure had yet to be confirmed.

Officials said that that there were around 400 Taliban prisoners in the jail at the time along with hundreds of other criminal inmates.

A police official said that the explosion was "followed by an assault by a number of Taliban with small arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades."

Afghan security forces had entered the prison and had retaken control, Danish said.

"A big part of the front wall of the prison has collapsed. Two prison guards have been martyred, an unknown number are wounded and there might be some prison guards under the rubble which I don't have a figure for."

Kandahar jail was the scene of a mass hunger strike by hundreds of inmates in May, during which 47 of the prisoners sewed their lips shut after complaining they had been tortured and denied fair trials.

Prisoners including Al-Qaeda and Taliban militants rioted at the country's main Pul-e-Charki jail in Kabul in February 2006, taking control of a block and leaving several people injured.

Five guards and four inmates with suspected links to Al-Qaeda and the Taliban died during a stand-off at the same jail in Kabul in December 2004.

The Taliban have been battling the new government of President Hamid Karzai since they were toppled from power in a US-led operation for failing to hand over Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden in 2001.

Date created : 2008-06-14