Prison chiefs arrested over Afghan jailbreak

Almost 500 mostly Taliban inmates made it out of jail in April 25 escape.

Updated: May 01, 2011, 21:42 PM IST

Kabul: Afghan authorities have arrested 15 people over a mass jailbreak in the country`s south including the prison chief, a deputy and four guards who were on duty at the time, the Justice Ministry said on Sunday.

The Kandahar prison`s security chief is also among those held, ministry spokesman Farid Ahmad Najibi said.

"As the investigation is ongoing, it`s difficult to determine whether any of the prison authorities were involved," Najibi added.

Almost 500 mostly Taliban inmates made it out of the prison in the April 25 mass escape through a 250-metre (270-yard) tunnel lined with lights and an air pipe, of whom 71 had been recaptured by Thursday, authorities said.

Provincial spokesman Zalmay Ayubi had said on Thursday that a number of people had been detained but did not provide further details, while a senior Kandahar police source speaking on condition of anonymity said prison officials and local police chiefs were among those arrested.

President Hamid Karzai`s office has said there were signs of inside involvement, while his spokesman Waheed Omer called the breakout a "disaster".

The mass escape could threaten gains made by international forces in the area as this year`s crucial fighting season gets under way, experts say.

The Afghan government is due to take full responsibility for security by 2014 from NATO-led international forces in Afghanistan.

Kandahar is the birthplace of the Taliban and the surrounding countryside is the scene of much of the worst fighting between the insurgents and international and Afghan forces.

Bureau Report