Additional detail on the prisoner escape in Musa Qala


A jail cell at Forward Operating Base Musa Qala. Photo by Bill Ardolino

A prisoner escape and subsequent small arms engagement occurred last weekend at the small three-room jail inside the wire at Forward Operating Base Musa Qala, which also serves as an Afghan police and army headquarters. Two Marines and one British security contractor were killed, and four Marines and an indeterminate number of Afghan cops and soldiers were wounded in the attack. Two prisoners were killed, one was wounded, and a fourth surrendered when the Marines cleared the area around the jail.

News reports variously described the facility as “a prison” and one stipulated that the escapees obtained weapons after overpowering the guards. An ISAF investigation is underway, but American sources provided The Long War Journal with additional specifics. Note: The ongoing investigation will likely clarify and potentially modify the following information gathered thus far:

Apparently, an Afghan policeman (ANP) took a detainee from his cell to wash for prayers. As the prisoner began to pray in a designated prayer room, someone knocked on a nearby Entry Control Point (ECP). When the cop moved to answer the gate, he left his rifle near the detainee, who quickly grabbed the weapon and made his way to the Afghan police armory and gathered/freed three other prisoners. The escapees acquired an RPK light machine gun and a Rocket Propelled Grenade (RPG) launcher.

Ken McGonigle, 51, a British security contractor working as a police mentor, was killed in an initial attack, while US Marine Lance Cpl. Kevin M. Cornelius, 20, and Marine Pfc. Vincent E. Gammone III, 19, were killed trying to subdue the escapees. The small jail is located on a hilltop set apart from the main area of the forward operating base. A barracks in the vicinity houses Afghan police, and another building is home to Marines, mostly those working as embedded police trainers. Marines on the scene and additional reinforcements from the main section of the forward operating base fought to kill or capture the prisoners, eventually bringing up a .50 caliber machine gun to clear the building. One escapee was killed by the .50 cal, another was killed by shrapnel from an American grenade, a third was wounded by small arms fire, and the fourth surrendered unscathed.

The above events represent one of the nightmare scenarios for Western trainers who necessarily trust much of their security to the competence and loyalty of their indigenous partners. Without a doubt the initial focus of the ongoing investigation is why the Afghan policeman left his weapon near an unsecured detainee. The cops in Musa Qala are rated well relative to other Afghan police in Helmand, but either incompetence or purposeful sabotage are possible motivations. Regardless, the result was an unusual and tragic firefight in a normally secure area.

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1 Comment

  • smiley says:

    i really do not know what is those policemen doing.i heard a lot of this kind of thing. they replay the TV series prison broke?to tell the truth ,i really like seeing the tv programme. but i really hate it when it happened in the real world. those criminal should be punished ,and those policemen should be condemned


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