Tag Archive: Tooryalai Wesa


Taliban free hundreds in brazen Afghan jailbreak

An Afghan National Army soldier keeps watch outside Kandahar's main jailhttp://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20110425/wl_nm/us_afghanistan_prison

By Ahmad Nadeem Ahmad Nadeem 52 mins ago

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (Reuters) – Hundreds of prisoners escaped from a jail in Afghanistan’s south on Monday through a tunnel dug by Taliban insurgents, officials said, a “disaster” for the Afghan government and a setback for foreign forces planning to start a gradual withdrawal within months.

Tooryalai Wesa, governor of volatile southern Kandahar province, told Reuters 488 prisoners escaped due to the negligence of Afghan security forces at the province’s main jail. He said the tunnel led to a nearby house.

The Taliban said in a statement that 541 prisoners escaped through the tunnel, which took months to construct, and were later moved in vehicles to safer locations. The prison, touted as one of the most secure in Afghanistan, is located on the outskirts of Kandahar city.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s chief spokesman told a news conference that the incident, in which many Taliban commanders were said to have escaped, exposed serious vulnerabilities in the Afghan government.

“This is a blow, it is something that should not have happened. We are looking into finding out … what exactly happened and what is being done to compensate for the disaster that happened in the prison,” spokesman Waheed Omer said.

General Ghulam Dastgir, the governor in charge of the jail, said the prisoners had all escaped through the tunnel.

“No one managed to escape through the main gate, everybody went out through the tunnel. The insurgents worked on it for some seven months,” Dastgir said.

“The Taliban have planted bombs inside the tunnel and it is hard to investigate until the explosives are removed,” he said.

BIRTHPLACE OF THE TALIBAN

Kandahar, the birthplace of the Taliban, has been the focus of the U.S.-led military campaign over the past year, with tens of thousands of U.S. and Afghan troops launching offensives around Kandahar city.

In Washington, Pentagon spokesman Colonel David Lapan said it is too early to tell what impact the escape will have on plans to hand over other prisons to Afghan security control.

A U.S. State Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity, indicated that the push to transfer more security responsibilities to Afghan officials will continue.

“This escape is a serious issue which the Afghan authorities are working to address,” the official said, adding that both U.S. and Canadian advisors helped train and mentor Afghan Central Prisons Directorate staff at the prison.

Twenty-six prisoners were recaptured and two killed in a gunfight with security forces, Wesa said.

Lieutenant Colonel Elizabeth Robbins, a Pentagon spokeswoman, said Afghan officials had not officially asked for help in recapturing the prisoners but NATO “personnel who patrol the area are aware of the situation and will assist the Afghan authorities in responding as needed.”

Reporters were taken into the prison after the jailbreak to view the opening of the tunnel in one of the cell blocks.

Reuters photographs showed a hole, several feet deep, cut into the concrete floor of one of the cells. The hole, big enough to allow one man to climb down at a time, appeared to be connected to a tunnel.

A large carpet in the cell looked to have been folded back to expose the hole. Police told reporters the insurgents had used car jacks to break through the concrete floor, which was several centimeters thick.

The Taliban said the prisoners escaped over a four-and-a-half hour period during the night, meaning more than 100 prisoners an hour would have had to crawl out through a tunnel barely large enough to fit one man.

“Mujahideen started digging a 320-meter (1,049 feet) tunnel to the prison from the south side, which was completed after a five-month period, bypassing enemy checkposts and the Kandahar-Kabul main highway leading directly to the political prison,” the Taliban statement said.

“They moved people in several groups. They had a comfortable period of time to move that many people. It’s obviously very worrying with the timing around fighting season,” said a foreign official in Kandahar with knowledge of the incident.

Wesa said of the 488 who had escaped, 13 were ordinary criminals and the rest were insurgents.

COLLABORATION?

Analysts said the escape was a serious setback for security, and there was doubt about whether it could have happened without the help of guards.

“It is either a case of the jailers being financially motivated and being bribed, or a case of them being politically motivated,” said Waheed Mujhda, a Kabul-based analyst and expert on the Taliban.

Justice Ministry spokesman Farid Ahmad Najibi said he could not rule out the possibility guards had helped in the escape.

Whether the insurgents had all escaped through the tunnel or not, the freeing of hundreds of prisoners, including Taliban militants, is embarrassing for the Afghan government and foreign troops who have trumpeted recent security gains in and around Kandahar after months of heavy fighting, Mujhda said.

The brazen jailbreak comes months before the start of a transfer of security responsibilities from foreign to Afghan forces in several areas — including the main city in neighboring Helmand province — as part of the eventual withdrawal of foreign troops from the country.

Under the transition program, Afghan forces would begin taking over from foreign troops in seven areas this summer and should have control of the whole country by the end of 2014.

While Kandahar is not among the areas listed for the transition of forces in the first stage, Monday’s jailbreak raises serious questions about the readiness of Afghan forces to take over from foreign troops.

The jailbreak also drew comparisons to a similar incident three years earlier. In 2008, Taliban insurgents blew open the gate of the Kandahar prison at night, allowing up to 1,000 inmates, including hundreds of Taliban insurgents, to escape.

Days after that escape, hundreds of Taliban fighters seized villages in districts close to Kandahar and appeared to threaten the city itself, with the government sending more than 1,000 extra troops from the north as reinforcements. Nearly 100 Taliban fighters were killed in the ensuing battle.

(Additional reporting by Ismail Sameem in KANDAHAR and Hamid Shalizi and Rob Taylor in KABUL; Andrew Quinn and David Alexander in WASHINGTON; Writing by Jonathon Burch; Editing by Paul Tait, Alex Richardson and Will Dunham)

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NATO: Bomb kills 10 in Afghanistan

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110416/ap_on_re_as/as_afghanistan

By SOLOMON MOORE, Associated Press Solomon Moore, Associated Press 2 hrs 38 mins ago

KABUL, Afghanistan — Like hundreds of thousands of Afghan men, he volunteered in the national army, ran drills in the mud, carried an automatic rifle, and worked alongside coalition mentors struggling against a hardcore insurgency.

But he was not one of them.

On Saturday, he walked into a meeting of NATO trainers and Afghan troops at Forward Operating Base Gamberi in the eastern province of Laghman and detonated a vest of explosives hidden underneath his uniform, killing 10.

Five NATO troopers, four Afghan soldiers and an interpreter were killed in the deadliest sleeper agent assault since November, when an Afghan border policeman shot six U.S. soldiers to death at a base in the eastern province of Faryab.

Four Afghan soldiers and three interpreters were wounded in Saturday’s attack.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the bombing and said the soldier was a sleeper agent who joined the army a month ago_a contention confirmed by an Afghan army official.

“Today, when there was a meeting going on between Afghan and foreign soldiers, he used the opportunity to carry out the attack,” Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said in an email to reporters.

Attacks by insurgents donning security uniforms are a relatively rare, but recurrent problem as NATO and Afghan forces work more closely together. Afghanistan’s security forces are also ramping up recruitment of Afghan soldiers and policemen so they can take the lead in securing their nation by the end of 2014 — adding more than 70,000 police and soldiers last year in an effort to reach a goal of 305,000 troopers by the end of this year.

Afghan security forces are supposed to be vetted by past employers or even village elders, but in a country where unemployment is about 35 percent, the literacy rate is about 28 percent, and computerized record-keeping is a novelty, background checks are often rudimentary.

The explosion took place at 7:30 a.m., as many people on the base were beginning the morning shift and as NATO and Afghan service members conducted what military officials call a “key leader engagement” meeting according to a NATO spokesman.

Following the explosion, Blackhawk helicopters swooped down to carry the dead and wounded to hospitals.

The bodies of four Afghan soldiers brought to a hospital in Jalalabad were too badly damaged to determine their military rank, said Baz Mohammad Sherzad, the health director in nearby Nangarhar province.

NATO declined to provide further identifying information about its soldiers killed in the blast pending notification of their next of kin.

In the wake of such attacks, often it’s not clear whether the shooter was an Afghan trooper who turned on his Western counterparts spontaneously or an insurgent who donned a uniform to infiltrate the base and attack from inside.

On Friday, a suicide bomber dressed as a policeman blew himself up inside the Kandahar police headquarters complex, killing the top law enforcement officer in the restive southern province. The funeral of Police Chief Khan Mohammad Mujahid, one of Afghanistan’s most prominent law enforcement officials, was attended Saturday by at least 1,500 people including Kandahar Gov. Tooryalai Wesa, Afghan Interior Minister Gen. Bismillah Khan Mohammad, Afghan chief justice Abdul Salam Azimi, and the Afghan president’s half brother, Ahmad Wali Karzai.

Earlier this month, a man wearing an Afghan border police uniform shot dead two American military personnel tasked with helping train members of the country’s security forces in Faryab province.

In February, an Afghan soldier shot and killed three German soldiers and wounded six others in the northern province of Baghlan.

Until Saturday, the worse case of a sleeper agent attack was in November, when an Afghan border policeman shot to death six American soldiers before he himself was shot to death in the eastern province of Nangahar. The policeman had been in the force for three years and had accompanied American troopers for about three months when he opened fire on them.

The Taliban took responsibility for that attack.

___

Rahim Faiez in Kabul and Mirwais Khan in Kandahar contributed to this report.

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