ISIS Jailbreak in Afghanistan Prompts Mass Manhunt For Escaped Prisoners

The Islamic State's Afghanistan affiliate has claimed responsibility for a major attack on a large prison in the city of Jalalabad—the capital of Nangarhar Province in the eastern part of the country—which the group claimed has released hundreds of prisoners.

The attack began Sunday night with a car bomb explosion at the security perimeter of the prison. Militants then stormed the facility as guards tried to defend the prison, The New York Times reported.

At least 21 people have been killed and 43 others wounded, the newspaper reported, citing Attaullah Khogyani—a spokesperson for the local government in Nangarhar.

IS Khorasan Province—the Afghan affiliate of ISIS which has been fighting U.S. troops, government forces and the Taliban in recent years—claimed responsibility in a statement. The group claimed to have freed hundreds of prisoners.

As of Monday morning, the gun battle between attackers and government troops was ongoing. In its statement, IS-KP said it had planted IEDs along the road to the prison to hamper the response of government forces and their Western backers.

The prison holds some 1,500 prisoners, around a third of which were IS-KP militants, according to an unnamed senior Afghan official who spoke with the Times. The rest of the prisoners at the facility are Taliban prisoners and other criminals.

Khogyani told reporters Monday that nearly 1,000 prisoners who had tried to escape had been re-captured by security forces, though with the firefight at the prison ongoing it remains unclear how many prisoners were able to evade re-arrest.

One unnamed military official told the Times some 300 prisoners had been recaptured and taken to a nearby military base.

The latest IS-KP attack comes as the U.S., Afghan government and Taliban prepare for a second round of peace negotiations. IS-KP are trying to carve out their own areas of influence in the war torn country, and while not as prolific as the Taliban have been able to launch multiple deadly attacks, including in the capital Kabul.

Taliban spokesperson Suhail Shaheen told the Associated Press that the group was not involved in the prison attack in Jalalabad. "We have a ceasefire and are not involved in any of these attacks anywhere in the country," Shaheen said.

The U.S. signed a peace deal with the Taliban in February, but negotiations between the group and the Afghan government in Kabul have yet to commence. Violence has continued since the February deal, perpetrated by both sides.

The Taliban declared a three-day ceasefire over the weekend to mark the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha. It expired Monday, though it is not clear whether the group will re-commence operations in the lead up to all-Afghan talks.

Afghanistan, Jalalabad, ISIS, prison, manhunt, attack, jailbreak
Afghan soldiers are pictured outside a prison during an ongoing raid in Jalalabad, Afghanistan on August 3, 2020. NOORULLAH SHIRZADA/AFP via Getty Images/Getty