Hundreds Escape Afghan Jail




 
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Hundreds Escape Afghan Jail
 
June 14th, 2008  
Team Infidel
 
 

Topic: Hundreds Escape Afghan Jail


Hundreds Escape Afghan Jail
Washington Post
June 14, 2008
Pg. 11
Taliban Fighters Blow Open Prison Gates in Suicide Attack
By Candace Rondeaux, Washington Post Foreign Service
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, June 14 -- Hundreds of prisoners escaped from a jail in southern Afghanistan on Friday after Taliban fighters blew off the gates in a suicide attack that killed several police officers, according to a U.S. military official. Many of those freed were apparently Taliban suspects.
The attack occurred in the evening in the southern city of Kandahar, a longtime stronghold of the Taliban insurgency, when attackers drove an explosives-laden vehicle toward the city jail, according to a spokesman for NATO's International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan. Prisoners breached the walls of the prison when a barrage of rocket and gunfire followed the initial attack.
A prison official at the scene said the bloody skirmish at the jail had left it nearly empty. Soldiers with NATO forces in the region were working with members of the Afghan national police to cordon off the area.
Government officials declared a state of emergency in Kandahar early Saturday.
Officials said that as many as 1,000 prisoners had been housed at the facility. Wali Karzai, president of Kandahar's provincial council, told the Associated Press that about 350 of the prisoners were suspected Taliban fighters.
Karzai, brother of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, said that "all" the prisoners had escaped but that he did not have a specific number.
"There is no one left," he said.
The prison is under the control of Afghan police, who are badly trained and underpaid, and the Interior Ministry, which is notoriously corrupt. The prison assault is another blow to the performance of the police force, which had lagged far behind the Afghan army in international aid and training despite playing a major role in security, especially in rural areas.
Last month, about 200 Taliban suspects held at the prison ended a week-long hunger strike after a parliamentary delegation promised their cases would be reviewed, the AP said. Some of the protesting prisoners had sewn their mouths shut.
Kandahar was the religious and ethnic birthplace of the Taliban movement, and its fighters have made a strong comeback in the surrounding province in the past two years despite aggressive attempts by U.S., Canadian and British forces to drive them out.
A former defense intelligence analyst this month predicted a Taliban effort to seize Kandahar city as the major urban center in the ethnic Pashtun heartland. The report also cited a growing number of attacks around Kabul, the capital, as signifying efforts to spread the insurgency in and around large cities.
The United States provides about 26,000 of the roughly 54,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan and has the leading combat role in the eastern part of the country, while U.S. Special Operations forces operate in all regions. British, Canadian, Australian and Dutch forces play key combat roles in southern Afghanistan, where violence has surged in the past year, particularly suicide and roadside bombings.
In the southern province of Uruzgan, more than 100 insurgents attacked NATO-led and Afghan troops Friday in what officials called the largest attack this year. At least 17 insurgents were killed in fighting a day earlier, which began when they ambushed a reconnaissance patrol, officials said.
In a measure of the increasing volatility, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said that for the first time, the monthly total of U.S. and allied combat deaths in Afghanistan had exceeded the toll in Iraq in May. Gates, addressing his European counterparts at NATO headquarters in Brussels, said other NATO members needed to do more to help stabilize Afghanistan.
"I expect government decisions and actions to match government rhetoric," Gates said. "It's important that we live up to our pledges, in both civilian and military spheres, necessary for success in Afghanistan."
Several high-profile prison breaks have taken place in Afghanistan in the six years since a U.S.-led coalition ousted the Taliban government. In 2005, four suspected al-Qaeda figures escaped from the heavily guarded U.S. prison facility at Bagram air base. They included Omar Farouq, believed to be a senior al-Qaeda figure in Southeast Asia, who had been turned over to U.S. authorities by the government of Indonesia. It was never determined how the men managed to flee the facility.
In early 2006, seven Taliban prisoners fled the Pol-i-Charki prison near Kabul, which was being rebuilt by the United States for special terrorism prisoners.
Staff writer Pamela Constable and staff researcher Robert E. Thomason, both in Washington, contributed to this report.
 


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