Taliban prisoners escape from Afghan prison through trickery

Sarposa Prison, Kandahar

For the fourth time in a decade, Taliban insurgents have escaped from the heavily guarded Sarposa Prison in Kandahar, Afghan officials confirmed on Sunday.

The prison break on Tuesday was smaller than previous episodes, in which hundreds of prisoners escaped, but it was particularly embarrassing. This time, someone altered an official document, letting at least 10 prisoners walk out the front gate in broad daylight, unchallenged, officials said.

The escapees were believed to be among the most prominent insurgents being held at Sarposa on terrorism charges, followers of a particularly notorious Taliban commander, Mullah Dad Mohammad Munib, who specialized in orchestrating assassinations and suicide bombings.

“This is humiliating,” said Hajji Agha Lalai, a member of the Kandahar Provincial Council, who like many officials said it was clear that the escapees had help from inside the prison.

Afghan officials did not confirm the prison break until Sunday, but the Taliban were quick to trumpet their success. “Through cleverly managed tactics we have freed 23 of our brave mujahedeen from the Kandahar prison,” Qari Yousuf Ahmadi, the spokesman for the Taliban in southern Afghanistan, said in an email to reporters in Kandahar.

Afghan government officials said that only 10 prisoners had escaped. According to Perwaiz Najeeb, chief of staff in the Kandahar governor’s office, an official letter in the Pashto language sent from the National Directorate of Security, the Afghan intelligence agency, originally listed 18 prisoners scheduled for release. That letter was altered to read 28 prisoners, and the names of the 10 Taliban insurgents were added, he said.

Zia Durani, a spokesman for the provincial police chief, confirmed that account. “In Pashto it is easy to convert a 1 into a 2 and make it 28 instead of 18,” he said. “We are trying to find out who was involved in this trickery.”