Almost 500 Taliban prisoners escaped through a tunnel in an audacious overnight jailbreak in south Afghanistan which the president’s office called a security “disaster”.
The Taliban said it was behind the operation to free the prisoners using a massive underground tunnel in its heartland of southern Kandahar, and claimed that all of those who escaped were its members, many of them senior commanders.
The daring breakout, the second from the prison in three years, threatens to undermine recent security gains claimed by foreign forces after a US troop surge, with the newly-freed insurgents once again available to wreak havoc.
It is also an embarrassment for Afghan forces who are due to take increasing responsibility for security ahead of the withdrawal of foreign combat troops in 2014.
“A tunnel hundreds of metres long was dug from the south of the prison into the prison, and 476 political prisoners escaped last night,” prison director General Ghulam Dastageer Mayar said.
The escapees, who represent over a third of the prison’s total population, came from its political section, he said, adding that the prison is the largest in southern Afghanistan.