Afghani official Mohammad Ali Ahmadi, deputy governor of Ghazni province, said that insurgents wearing military uniforms launched a well-organised attack early yesterday morning that included using a suicide bomber to breach the compound’s walls.
Four guards were killed and seven others wounded, while three insurgents were also killed, he said.
Taleban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the attack in an email sent to the media.
A total of 355 prisoners escaped, the Afghan Interior Ministry said in a statement, and only 82 prisoners remain in custody in the prison. However Ahmadi added that 20 of the prison’s most dangerous inmates had been transferred to another facility a day earlier after a fight broke out.
Officials in Ghazni said that there were attacks by the Taleban in at least 10 different parts of the city overnight.
“There was an organised attack around 2am on the Ghazni prison,” Ahmadi said.
“To make their plan successful the enemy at the same time launched attacks in different locations of the city as well.”
He added that the suicide car bomber breached the jail’s entrance gates while security forces were busy defending other parts of the city.
“At least 148 of the escaped inmates are considered to be a serious threat to national security,” the Interior Ministry statement said, adding that three of the escaped prisoners had been recaptured.
The prison break highlights the scale of the security challenge facing President Ashraf Ghani. One western diplomat was reported as saying: “This is a big setback. Already, people are worried about the Afghan security structure just not being up to speed. The real danger is if it is actually collapsing.”
In 2011, Taleban fighters carried out an even larger prison raid, freeing more than 500 inmates from a prison in Kandahar province.
In its statement, the Taleban said that the majority of the freed prisoners were either Taleban commanders and fighters or Taleban members’ relatives.
It is understood more than a third of the escapees had been charged with national and international security crimes. Two thirds had been charged with criminal offenses.
CNN reported that the prison break followed operations by the Afghan National Army which killed 100 militants over the weekend.
Around a dozen ANA soldiers died in the fighting, according to a ministry statement.
In addition to the 100 insurgents killed, another 35 were wounded and one was taken into custody.