The Afghan government says hundreds of Taliban militants who escaped from a jail in the country’s south had inside help from prison guards or other officials.
Nearly 500 inmates streamed out of Kandahar province’s Sarposa prison overnight Sunday through a 300-meter long tunnel to a nearby house, in a massive security breach claimed by the Taliban.
On Tuesday, local officials said a joint Afghan and NATO force recaptured 65 of the 488 escapees. Security has been tightened along Kandahar’s border with Pakistan and officials say biometric data on each prisoner would help identify and capture the remaining inmates.
Afghanistan’s Justice Minister Abibullah Ghalab said the house where the tunnel was found was searched by security forces two and a half months ago. The Taliban said the tunnel took five months to build.
Ghalab also said Afghan and international forces should have detected the plot.
The prison break comes as U.S. and NATO forces work to secure the Taliban stronghold of Kandahar.
Meanwhile, NATO announced Tuesday that its forces have killed the second most wanted insurgent in Afghanistan.
The coalition says that an April 13 airstrike in Kunar province killed Abu Hafs al-Najdi, also known as Abdul Ghani. NATO says Nadji’s death “marks a significant milestone” in its efforts to disrupt al-Qaida.
NATO says the Saudi man was responsible for coordinating numerous high-profile attacks and used a network of insurgents to target security forces in the eastern province.
The coalition says Nadji also trained fighters to make explosive devices and organized al-Qaida finances.
The airstrike killed several other insurgents, including another al-Qaida leader whom NATO says frequently worked with Nadji to coordinate attacks against Afghan and coalition forces.
Elsewhere in the east, officials say the governor of Paktia province, Juma Khan Hamdard, narrowly escaped an assassination attempt when a roadside bomb exploded near his convoy. Three police officers and a civilian were wounded in the blast.