More than 450 Taliban leaders, fighters escape from Kandahar jail

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.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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  • James says:

    This is a joke, right? It has to be April 1st.

  • Soccer says:

    Well, you might as well kiss this “progress” in the South goodbye then.

  • JT says:

    Don’t the Afghans communicate with the ISAF? If the prisoners broke out and there were decent communications with ISAF, this would have been the textbook case for use of MOAB.

  • Johno says:

    What? We can read a vehicle’s number plate from a hundred miles but no one noticed the 500 ton pile of dirt piled up amongst the 2 metre high hovels.

  • Johno says:

    Sean Pean is going to play the Steve McQueen role and Jane Fonda one of the goats.

  • KaneKaizer says:

    JT, a tunnel that few knew existed isn’t exactly the easiest thing to bomb.

  • Civy says:

    Look at the bright side, they’ll all soon be dead – battlefield casualties. Doubtful they learned to be more effective on the battlefield rotting away in some 3rd world prison. They’ll share the same fate as most of the former Gitmo inmates. KIA

  • rainbow says:

    MOAB ? Are you kidding me ? You can’t solve everything by dropping a big bomb. Thats our M.O. though. Drop a bomb, estimate another “100” enemy killed, and hope for the best.
    We have had quite a few tunnels built from mexico into the US. It should not have been a surprise that they would try this. After the last escape there, they apparently improved the outer ring security. I am sure there is some type of ground scanner that we could have deployed to make sure there was no tunneling. We were asleep, and were letting the afghans sleep as well. Someone obviously didn’t see Hogans Heroes when they were kids.

  • Jim Clark says:

    I always wanted to know what happens to those hunted then captured by ISAF. I guess now I do. The ineptitude of the Karzai government boggles. I don’t think he can stay any longer. He has to go. Jim

  • Is the escape anyway related to the secret parleys going on with Taliban through Pakistan army? Was the recent visit of Kiyani to Afghanistan has anything to do with it ? Or is it a real escape, then Obama must give an answer to the American people

  • Civy says:

    Next time WE should dig the tunnel, and have a dozen HMG’s and circling B52s on tap to kill them as they emerge.

  • Larry says:

    For Gods sake let’s get our troops out of a dangerous Disneyland. They are NOT worth one American soldier.

  • Cordell says:

    Let’s put the escape in perspective. Aside from the loss of Taliban commanders, 450 Taliban roughly equal the number killed or captured in three weeks. In addition, if past escapes are any guide, 30% to 50% will soon be recaptured.
    That said, one would think that ISAF would have taken better measures to prevent tunneling escapes at the prison — like installing thick concrete floors with embedded X-Y wire grids that alarm with a loss of continuity or change in capacitance. They might also have each prisoner wear an ankle bracelet with a tracking signal that can be activated remotely. The Afghans must have their versions of Commandant Klink and Sargent Shultz running the camp. “I see nothing. I know nothing.”

  • Johno says:

    Great news, it just come over the wire. It’s a new day release scheme being rolled out. Most of the serious offenders are returning as we speak…and oh look! ….. they’ve all got nice big parcels for the warden and looking very sharp in their new padded vests.

  • James says:

    They should’ve been eliminated (and permanently so) the first time around (i.e., as in the Battle of the Bulge).
    How’s this for an idea: A “staged” escape by US captors?
    Just maybe next time, we can help them along by pretending to be dumb, and then conveniently arranging an “accidental” detonation inside the tunnel; ideally with as many of them inside it as possible.
    A variation of the above idea would involve GITMO. We could pretend to “look the other way,” while the detainees there would be allowed to take their lawyers hostage and then finally our guys (i.e., Delta Force) would be called on to eliminate the scum of GITMO once and for all.
    Oh well, I guess this is what occurs when you treat a bunch of international war criminals as common criminals (which they are not).
    Does anyone have an idea where they fled to?
    It would be helpful if some tracking devices had been surreptitiously planted in their personal effects and/or persons.

  • Russ says:

    Can someone explain to me what exactly US troops have been dying for if this kinda stuff is taking place there? Pathetic as hell,man.

  • DANNY says:

    NOTE: Keyword was “Sprung”, they dug into the prison not out. thus no extra dirt in the prison yard. (just outside the fence. lol)

  • madashell59 says:

    This maybe a prime example of why there are probably Al Queda and Taliban types in Mexico. They came there to learn more about how to dig a tunnel without being detected. Maybe the killings in Mexico are related not to drug wars but to making sure no info gets out and fighting over who gets the money to help the terrorists. Or the terrorists trying to take over the drug business. Hmmmm

  • Mr T says:

    You would think that these prisons with their Taliban prisoners would be targets for armies that are out there. This isn’t a police measure where a criminals gang could show up. The Taliban army could show up and have before. The security should be very tight.
    Of course, they can’t “mistreat” the poor Taliban so they leave it open to this. It is interesting that no one died during this entire operation.
    I wonder if Karzai, who is supposedly corrupt, or some of his cronies took some money to let this happen. I just can’t see how 500 people could be moving about and no one noticed inside or outside the prison.
    Not only that, but where is the followup? These guys were all booked under their own names. We know who they are. Did they go home? Where are the police to round these guys up and take them back there?
    How many have been returned? Is there a manhunt going on for these guys? What is being done about it? Nothing? This doesn’t pass the smell test. Inaction by the enemy indeed.

  • Andrew says:

    “The Sarposa prison is notorious for its lax security.”
    This latest news certainly won’t help this reputation. From the sounds of it, Martha Stewart was better secured than these thugs.
    Given that holding these prisoners is as important as catching them, maybe a little more effort should be put on security at the prisons where they’re held. We now have an additional 450 killers on the loose who are bent on harming our troops. Brilliant!
    And this is the second time this prison has been breached. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. What do you say for the third time? Unless security of these prisoners is improved, we’ll find out.
    Good luck to our troops and hopefully we’ll take out these thugs altogether soon so we won’t have to bother holding them.

  • JT says:

    The MOAB statement got the expected response. I actually meant it as a metaphor for action. In the immediate term after the escape occurred, where was the reaction to at least monitor and surround the area?
    Was this prison inner city or not? Things like that (you know, HOW things actually work vs. how they sound from media sound bites, is what is important).
    My focus was on the communications (good or bad) and the reaction to the event in real time. MOAB as a metaphor for some type of action, doncha know. If there was communication, there should have been action of some type. You don’t just let them go unless there is an intentional catch and release going on.
    Some do want to know what is actually going on.

  • Svante says:

    It has to be BS. 450 people through 350 of tunel???
    I guess they were all sitting in the same room…..

  • sports says:

    Well, these guys were removed from the battlefield and the next time we see them we can help them join the KIA. I’m sure they weren’t converted while in the prison…that is if you can call it a prison.

  • Vienna,26-04-2011
    I am just conducting an analysis to come up with details.
    Many comments are made without considering the issues
    involved. President Dr.Karzai is being blamed unjustly,
    since he is not even that free as the nominally sovereign
    Pakistani government. Pakistani sovereignty is partly gifted
    to Al-Qaeda and partly shared with Taliban and other
    terrorist groups. Afghanistan is under rape by the ISI
    and partner Al-Qaeda terrorists on one side on the other
    hands tied up by the Nato forces led y the U.S.I dread
    such a captivity.-Kulamarva Balakrishna

  • nolan says:

    MOAB as a metaphor for some type of action? either youre saving face or youre a field grade.
    i could never keep up with the ever evolving acronyms in the army.


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