Canadian troops respond to daring prison break
KANDAHAR CITY, Afghanistan •
Canadian soldiers joined allied and Afghan national security forces in a sweeping door-to-door urban hunt for hundreds of escaped prisoners yesterday after the Taliban staged a daring mass breakout at Kandahar City’s Sarposa Prison.
A suicide bomber drove to the prison’s main entrance and detonated his vehicle yesterday around 9:30 p.m. local time.
The massive explosion, heard across the Afghanistan’s second-largest city, destroyed the gate and a police checkpoint, burying guards under rubble and killing scores.
Witnesses said as many as 30 motorcycles then raced forward, carrying armed men firing rocket-propelled grenades, machin-guns and AK-47s. A second hole was blasted in a rear wall of the prison, the largest such facility in southern Afghanistan.
During the ensuing 20-minute battle inside the prison and in the city’s west side, hundreds of prisoners were able to flee.
Wali Karzai, president of Kandahar’s provincial council and the brother of President Hamid Karzai, told local reporters a short time later that all the inmates had fled. Late into the night, however, it remained unclear exactly how many escaped from the prison, which houses almost 1,200 inmates, including about 400 Taliban militants.
Some prison officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, estimated that as many as 800 prisoners managed to escape, while an unknown number were killed in a gun battle between police and Taliban fighters inside the jail.
A Taliban spokesman said the group was claiming responsibility.
Rockets were also fired at nearby Camp Nathan Smith, home of the Canadian-led Provincial Reconstruction Team, but witnesses said they fell far short.
Members of a Canadian Forces company protecting the team were among hundreds of security forces who responded to the daring attack, which came just days after Kandahar province’s police chief, Brig.-Gen. Sayed Agha Saqib, told reporters here that the security situation in the city was good.
“We believe that the situation is under control,” Joint Task Force Afghanistan spokesman Maj. Jay Janzen told reporters at Kandahar Airfield several hours after the brazen attack.