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Insurgents free hundreds through tunnel in Afghan jailbreak

posted 25 Apr 2011, 08:33 by Mpelembe   [ updated 25 Apr 2011, 08:35 ]

Officials in Afghanistan show a tunnel dug by Taliban insurgents through which hundreds of prisoners escaped in a jailbreak in the outskirts of the southern city of Kandahar.

undreds of prisoners escaped from a prison in Afghanistan's south on Monday (April 25) through a tunnel dug by Taliban insurgents, officials said,

The jailbreak was described a "disaster" for the Afghan government and a setback for foreign forces planning to start a gradual withdrawal within months.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai's chief spokesman said the incident, in which many Taliban commanders were said to have escaped, exposed serious vulnerabilities in the Afghan government.

Tooryalai Wesa, governor of volatile southern Kandahar province, told Reuters 478 prisoners escaped due to the negligence of Afghan security forces at the province's main jail. He said the start of the tunnel had been traced to a house near the prison.

General Ghulam Dastgir, the governor in charge of the jail, said the prisoners had escaped through the tunnel, which the insurgents had then lined with explosives.

The prison, touted as one of the most secure in Afghanistan, is on the outskirts of Kandahar city. Analysts said the escape was a serious setback for security, and there was doubt about whether the escape could have taken place without the cooperation of prison guards. Some even questioned whether there had been a tunnel at all.

The Taliban said in a statement 541 prisoners escaped through a tunnel, which took months to construct, and were later moved in vehicles to safer locations.

It said the tunnel was completed late on Sunday (April 24), with hundreds of insurgents escaping over a four-and-a-half hour period immediately afterwards.

Farid Ahmad Najibi, a spokesman for the Justice Ministry, said an operation had been launched to recapture the prisoners but that so far only eight had been caught.