Hundreds of Taliban prisoners freed after attack on Afghan jail

Taliban militants blew open one of Afghanistan's biggest prisons last night, setting free more than 400 insurgents and 700 criminals.

A suicide bomber drove a lorry packed full of explosives into the main gates of Kandahar prison, while teams of militants attacked the building with Kalashnikov rifles and rocket-propelled grenades.

A Taliban spokesman said 30 insurgents on motorcycles and two suicide bombers were involved in the attack. Officials said almost all of the 1,150 prisoners escaped in the gun battle that ensued, including more than 400 Taliban.

Witnesses said that Taliban gunmen stormed into the jail, shooting guards as they raced to free their fellow militants.

The brother of President Hamid Karzai, Walid Karzai, said a second wave of suicide bombers then ran into the prison and blew down two of the compound's mud walls. Mr Karzai, who is the head of the provincial council, said: "All the prisoners escaped. There is no one left." The first blast, from a water tanker filled with explosives, destroyed the main gate, killing all of the guards nearby.

The prison's governor, Abdul Qadir, said: "They used a truck to blow the gate open and all of the guards have been killed and are under rubble."

A spokesman for the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force said: "There was a suicide vehicle-borne IED [improvised explosive device]. Isaf are assisting the Afghan National Police to cordon off the area. Obviously prisoners have escaped. We have reports of numbers but we are yet to confirm them."

Dozens of people are thought to have been killed and injured in the attack, which started at 9.30pm and continued into the night. Afghan troops and local police, backed by Nato troops, rushed to the scene, but they were too late to stem the exodus. A witness said: "There was nothing left. The building was destroyed. Everyone ran away." A local shopkeeper said the prisoners fled into the fruit groves that surround the jail under cover of darkness.

Kandahar is the country's second-biggest city and the jail housed criminals from all over the south. Canada has a few hundred troops stationed inside the city. There is also an American special forces base nearby, but most of the international troops are based at Kandahar Airfield, outside the city.

The attack comes as President Karzai visits Paris to appeal for more money from international donors to rebuild his shattered country. It also comes days after a massive drugs bust by British and Afghan commandos in Kandahar, which destroyed more than 236 tonnes of cannabis.

Analysts said that the jail break might have been bankrolled by the drug smugglers in revenge for the recent raid. But a spokesman for the Taliban said that militants had been planning the assault for the past two months "to release our Taliban friends". He added: "Today we succeeded." The escaped prisoners "are safe in town and they are going to their homes".

A spokesman for the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force said that it was aware of the attack, but that it had no details.

The country's prisons have been heavily criticised for the lawlessness inside their own walls. British officials in Kabul have warned that the capital's main jail risks being overrun by its inmates. There have been a series of riots where guards have lost control of entire wings for days at a time

* The Ministry of Defence confirmed last night that Britain was to deploy a few hundred extra troops to Afghanistan. The MoD also released the names of two British soldiers killed on Thursday in southern Afghanistan. L/Cpl James Bateman, 29, of Staines, Middlesex, and Pte Jeff Doherty, 20, of Southam, Warwickshire, were killed on a patrol in Helmand province.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
News
Down time: an employee of Google uses the slide to get to the canteen
businessHow bosses are inventing unusual ways of making us work harder
News
Actor, model and now record breaker: Jiff the Pomeranian
news
News
REX/Eye Candy
science
News
i100
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates after scoring his first goal for Arsenal in the Champions League qualifier against Besiktas
sportChilean's first goal for the club secures place in draw for Champions League group stages
Arts and Entertainment
Amis: 'The racial situation in the US is as bad as it’s been since the Civil War'
booksAuthor says he might come back across Atlantic after all
Extras
indybest
Life and Style
Google Doodle celebrates the 200th birthday of Irish writer Sheridan Le Fanu
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Vinyl demand: a factory making the old-style discs
musicManufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl
News
i100
News
In Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind Jim Carrey and Kate Winslett medically erase each other from their memories
scienceTechnique successfully used to ‘reverse’ bad memories in rodents could be used on trauma victims
Arts and Entertainment
Singer Pixie Lott will take part in Strictly Come Dancing 2014, the BBC has confirmed
tv
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

C# Developer (C#, ASP.NET Developer, SQL, MVC, WPF, Real-Time F

£40000 - £48000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: C# Devel...

C# Swift Payment Developer (C#, ASP.NET, .NET, MVC, Authorize.N

£45000 - £60000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: C# Swift...

Front-End Developer (JavaScript, HTML5, CSS3, C#, GUI)

£55000 - £70000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Front-End Deve...

Graduate C# Developer (.NET, WPF, SQL, Agile, C++) - London

£30000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Graduate C# De...

Day In a Page

Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone
Amazon is buying Twitch for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?

What is the appeal of Twitch?

Amazon is buying the video-game-themed online streaming site for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?
Tip-tapping typewriters, ripe pongs and slides in the office: Bosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder

How bosses are making us work harder

As it is revealed that one newspaper office pumps out the sound of typewriters to increase productivity, Gillian Orr explores the other devices designed to motivate staff
Manufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl records

Hard pressed: Resurgence in vinyl records

As the resurgence in vinyl records continues, manufacturers and their outdated machinery are struggling to keep up with the demand
Tony Jordan: 'I turned down the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series nine times ... then I found a kindred spirit'

A tale of two writers

Offered the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series, Tony Jordan turned it down. Nine times. The man behind EastEnders and Life on Mars didn’t feel right for the job. Finally, he gave in - and found an unexpected kindred spirit
Could a later start to the school day be the most useful educational reform of all?

Should pupils get a lie in?

Doctors want a later start to the school day so that pupils can sleep later. Not because teenagers are lazy, explains Simon Usborne - it's all down to their circadian rhythms
Prepare for Jewish jokes – as Jewish comedians get their own festival

Prepare for Jewish jokes...

... as Jewish comedians get their own festival
SJ Watson: 'I still can't quite believe that Before I Go to Sleep started in my head'

A dream come true for SJ Watson

Watson was working part time in the NHS when his debut novel, Before I Go to Sleep, became a bestseller. Now it's a Hollywood movie, too. Here he recalls the whirlwind journey from children’s ward to A-list film set
10 best cycling bags for commuters

10 best cycling bags for commuters

Gear up for next week’s National Cycle to Work day with one of these practical backpacks and messenger bags
Paul Scholes: Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United

Paul Scholes column

Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United
Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

The science of herding is cracked

Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

This tyrant doesn’t rule

It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?