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41 Taliban Escape From Afghan Prison

October 12, 2003|From Associated Press

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — Forty-one Taliban militants escaped from a southern Afghanistan prison by digging a 30-foot-long tunnel with apparent help from prison workers, regional officials said Saturday.

The escapees -- including several Taliban commanders and the brother of former Taliban Defense Minister Mullah Obaidulla -- disappeared late Friday from the high-security prison in the city of Kandahar, said Yusuf Pashtun, the governor of Kandahar province.

The prisoners were among the 54 arrested in recent months during fighting between Afghan government forces and insurgents. Kandahar was the stronghold of Afghanistan's former hard-line Islamic Taliban regime, ousted by a U.S.-led military operation in late 2001.

"This is a very serious incident," Pashtun said, adding that a wide search for the prisoners was underway.

Two government officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said five prison officials were missing. Pashtun said there was an investigation into whether the five might have had a role in the escape.

"The Taliban dug a 30-foot tunnel and initial investigations indicate that they were working on it for the past month," Pashtun said.

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