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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - KABUL: Several provincial Daesh leaders were among hundreds of inmates who escaped from a prison in eastern Afghanistan two days ago after the militant group stormed the facility in a commando-style attack, officials and lawmakers said Tuesday, amid claims that the jailbreak was an inside job.
“There are no precise figures for the number of the escapees, but we believe that 170 inmates, such as Taliban, Daesh and criminal prisoners have fled,” Attaullah Khogyani, spokesman for Nangarhar’s governor, told Arab News.
Sunday’s attack on the prison in Jalalabad, the provincial capital of Nangarhar, was the first major one by Daesh since its emergence in Afghanistan in 2014 and resulted in the deaths of 25 people.
Lawmakers believed that the dramatic jailbreak, which began with a car bomb explosion at the prison entrance that allowed at least 10 assailants to enter the compound and exchange fire with guards, was an “inside job.”
“It was not an ordinary attack. It was pre-planned and an organized one,” Ajmal Omar, deputy chief for Nangarhar’s provincial council told Arab News. “Daesh without inside help could not have conducted it.”
He added that Daesh, which has no power base like the Taliban, could not have carried out the “brazen and complex attack” and gave details of the strike.
“They blew a car full of explosives at the gate of the prison and, at the same time, there was a powerful explosion inside the prison near a wall that was under construction. Daesh had managed to bring in explosives and arms for days before the attack,” he said.
According to Omar what followed was an exchange of fire that “raged within one block of the prison” while “hundreds of prisoners managed to flee through parts of the wall which had collapsed from the blast” at the back.
“Then Daesh prisoners sat in rickshaws and cars that were already brought outside the compound of the prison, but the government re-arrested hundreds of other prisoners such as those on charges of criminal acts and Taliban militants because they were fleeing on foot,” he added.
But Tariq Aryan, an Interior Ministry spokesman, denied the claims when contacted by Arab News and said: “The issues require all-sided elucidation and assessment.”
The jailbreak took place despite claims by the government that most of Daesh’s leaders had either been killed or arrested in recent years in operations by local and US-led troops.
Abdul Rauf Shpoon, a legislator from Nangarhar, visited a prison block after the attack and found that only four inmates out of 404 were absent.
“Their (Daesh) important individuals managed to flee,” he told Arab News. “It was a complex attack. There was negligence, there was inside help. It was a total security failure.” According to reports, he said, Daesh attackers once inside the jail began asking about the identity of inmates and “shot dead some Taliban prisoners and allowed their comrades to escape.”
Daesh and the Taliban have been at loggerheads for years, with the latter considering the group as alien to Afghan culture and challenging their “understanding of Islamic values.”
Lailuma Hokmi, another MP from Nangarhar, said authorities had yet to reveal the identity of the prisoners and called for speedy measures to be taken.
“The head of prison and intelligence should be grilled as to why there was such a major security and intelligence failure,” she told Arab News.
Social media users, citing a purported Daesh spokesman named Sultan Aziz Azzam, said that 280 of the group’s members had fled in the attack.
One Twitter user named Ab. Sayed (@abdsayedd), who describes himself as a researcher, said: “ISKP media outlet released a 20 min audio where the group spokesman Sultan Aziz Azzam provides details of the group’s deadliest attack on the central prison in Nangarhar carried on 2/8. For the 1st time, ISKP quickly released a claim of an attack with a detailed description.”
Zabihullah Pakteen, an analyst and former journalist, attributed the attack to “sheer negligence.”
“It’s sheer negligence or inside help – both amounted to the prison break,” he told Arab News. “It is corruption either way.”
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