|Afghan policemen stand in front of gate of the main prison in Kandaha|
The massive overnight jailbreak underscores the Afghan government's continuing weakness in the south, despite an influx of international troops, funding and advisers. Kandahar city has been a focus of the effort to establish a strong Afghan government presence in former Taliban strongholds. The Sarposa Prison (1,200-inmates) has been part of that plan. The facility had undergone security upgrades and tightened procedures following a previous Taliban attack that freed 900 prisoners in 2008. Since that rather embarrassing incident, Afghan government officials have regularly said that the prison has vastly improved security. But, on Sunday night, about 475 prisoners streamed out of a tunnel that had been dug into the facility and disappeared into Kandahar city. The majority of the missing were Taliban militants.
A Taliban spokesman said insurgents dug the 1,050-foot (320-meter) tunnel to the prison over five months, bypassing government checkpoints and major roads. The diggers finally poked through to the prison cells Sunday night, and the inmates were ushered through the tunnel to freedom by three prisoners who had been informed of the plan.
The Taliban claims more than 500 inmates were freed, and that about 100 of them were Taliban commanders. The prisoners were led through the tunnel over four and a half hours, with the final inmates exiting around 3:30 a.m., all without drawing the attention of prison guards.
A man who Taliban spokesmen said was one of the inmates who helped organize the escape from the inside said a group of inmates obtained copies of the keys to the cells ahead of time. He said they woke the inmates up four or five at a time to get them out quietly.
An Afghan government official who is familiar with Sarposa Prison said that while the external security has been greatly improved, the internal controls were not as strong (Ya think?...). He said the Taliban prisoners in Sarposa were very united and would rally together to make demands from their jailers for better treatment or more privileges.
The area outside the prison was swarming with security forces — both Afghan and American — after the prison break. Many of the international troops were focused on a house nearby the prison — perhaps an indicator that it was the starting point for the tunnel. Police mounted a search operation Monday to recapture the prisoners and Omar said 13 had been caught by midday.
In the 2008 attack, dozens of militants on motorbikes and two suicide bombers assaulted the prison. One suicide bomber set off an explosives-laden tanker truck at the prison gate while a second bomber blew up an escape route through a back wall. About 900 inmates escaped, including 400 Taliban fighters.
Live Long and Prosper....