The Pakistani newspaper Dawn has reported that several Taliban militiamen have broken out of a prison in Afghanistan yesterday. According to a report delivered by the English-language publication via the news agency Associated Press, an official with the Faryab provincial government said that three men escaped from the jail after getting hold of weapons. The weapons had been smuggled into the prison grounds by Taliban sympathisers. The resulting mêlée which lead to the jailbreak saw three prison guards die in the line of duty.
The official, Ahmad Jawad Dedar, told media today (Friday 18 April) that the breakout took place yesterday and that a fourth inmate who also tried to escape was shot dead in a gunfight with security forces who were called to the scene. Dedar said that the Taliban men were not cell leaders but low-level operatives who were imprisoned for setting up roadside explosives. These homemade explosives are often aimed at the thousands of foreign soldiers stationed in Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban government following the United States-led invasion in 2003. The Taliban, a theocratic militia who developed from the ‘mujahideen’ that faced the Soviets in the 1980s Russian invasion of Afghanistan, ruled the country with an iron fist before they themselves were toppled in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York. Their name means ‘students’ in Arabic, but they are widely reviled by the West and ordinary Afghans for their frequent bombing and shooting attacks on both occupying forces and civilians. The north of Afghanistan has largely escaped the attention of the Taliban, who are mostly active in the capital Kabul and some restive southern provinces.
The location of Faryab province in north Afghanistan, where the latest Taliban jailbreak took place. The province is marked with the purple pointer.
The four inmates allegedly used grenades which were thrown at guards as the nightly roll call of prisoners was in progress. They were also believed to have shot at prison personnel with a smuggled pistol, before making their escape into the local area. Authorities are still on the lookout for the three prisoners, whose names and appearances were not identified by either Dawn or the Faryab provincial government.
The Taliban have a frequent habit of escaping from poorly run, insecure and little funded Afghan prisons. A forged letter from an attorney-general was used by twelve inmates with alleged links to the Taliban who walked out unchallenged from Sarposa prison in Kandahar in early March. The escape was aided by corrupt prison staff who added the prisoners’ names to a list of people to be freed after completing their sentences. Two were later recaptured. Two years earlier, in June 2011, 500 detained Taliban personnel escaped en masse in the central jail in Kandahar city after digging a 1,000 feet tunnel prisoners’ cells. The tunnel was constructed over a period of five months right under the noses of prison officers and bypassing security checkpoints manned by both Afghan and international forces. Sixty-five were recaptured and two were shot dead after resisting arrest.
Neighbouring Pakistan which has its own equally vicious version of the Taliban, has also borne the brunt of both terrorist attacks and jailbreaks. Militants stormed a prison in the north-western town of Dera Ismail Khan in July 2013 and freed 248 of their comrades. Armed with automatic weapons, rocket-propelled grenades, mortars and bombs, the hundred attackers in police uniforms blew up the prison walls before quickly streaming inside. Thirteen people died as a gun battle raged on for several hours, while the militants allegedly used a loudhailer to call out the names of their jailed fellow fighters. A similar attack at a correctional facility in the nearby town of Bannu, also in the militancy-infested Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, saw the freeing of almost 400 prisoners two weeks earlier, reported the BBC.
HEM News Agency, The Half-Eaten Mind, Twitter LINK
Dawn Media Group, Twitter LINK
“Taliban inmates break out of Afghan prison” – AP, Dawn.com/DAWN MEDIA GROUP (18 April 2014) LINK
“Forged letter frees 12 Afghan prisoners” – Emma Graham-Harrison, The Guardian/Guardian News and Media Limited (2 March 2014) LINK
“After 500 Taliban prisoners are freed through Great Escape-style tunnels in Afghanistan – forces fight back by recapturing 65” – David Gardner, Mail Online News/Daily Mail/Associated Newspapers Ltd (24 June 2011) LINK
“Pakistan jailbreak: Taliban free 248 in Dera Ismail Khan” – BBC News Asia/BBC (30 July 2013) LINK
“File:ANA soldier shows opium captured in an alleged Taliban safe house in Helmand.jpg” – Sean K. Harp, Wikimedia Commons (8 May 2009) LINK
“Map of Afghanistan” – Mapquest LINK