The Taliban sprung more than 450 senior commanders and fighters last night from an Afghan prison in the provincial capital of Kandahar.
The Taliban prisoners escaped from Sarposa prison in Kandahar City yesterday using a “350 metre-long tunnel,” according to Al Jazeera. The news organization said that 540 Taliban “officers” and fighters escaped, while the Associated Press reported that 476 Taliban escaped.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, in a statement released on the Voice of Jihad website, claimed credit for the jailbreak and said that “106 commanders” were among the 541 escapees. The identity of the prisoners has not been disclosed.
Mujahid also said the tunnel was built over the past five months, while a handful of inmates inside Sarposa were aware of the plot.
“As per plan, Mujahideen started digging a 360 meter tunnel to the prison from the south side, which was completed after a 5 month period, bypassing enemy check posts and Kandahar-Herat main highway leading directly to the political prison,” the Taliban statement read.
In addition, Mujahid claimed that a suicide team was prepared to carry out a diversion, but “the need did not arise due to the inaction shown by the enemy.” The US military did find suicide vests inside the tunnel, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The Sarposa prison is notorious for its lax security. In June 2008, Sarposa was the scene of a major Taliban jailbreak. More than 1,100 prisoners, including 400 Taliban fighters, were sprung from the Sarposa prison by a well-trained assault force, which used a massive suicide truck bomb and heavily-armed fighters to penetrate the front gate. The prison was poorly guarded and the more than 1,100 prisoners easily escaped.
Yesterday’s jailbreak takes place as Afghan and Coalition forces and the Taliban vie for control of the Afghan south after operations ejected the Taliban from their traditional strongholds in the provinces. ISAF has killed and captured thousands of fighters and hundreds of commanders during conventional operations and conventional raids over the past year. The influx of 100 leaders and estimated 400 fighters will be welcomed by the Taliban, which have been hit especially hard in the south.
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