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Kandahar jail governor detained after mass breakout

KANDAHAR (Reuters) - The governor of the Afghan jail where hundreds of insurgents this week escaped through a tunnel built by the Taliban has been detained along with several top aides, a government intelligence source told Reuters on Thursday.

General Ghulam Dastgir, the governor in charge of the Kandahar jail, points to the hole which inmates used to escape April 25, 2011. REUTERS/Ahmad Nadeem

General Ghulam Dastgir, who headed the high security Sarposa jail where almost 500 fighters escaped through a dirt shaft fitted with lights and air pipes, was led away in handcuffs following a preliminary investigation, the source said.

Also detained were eight others including Dastgir’s deputy governor and several senior prison managers, said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

A spokesman for Tooryalai Wesa, the governor of southern Kandahar province where the jail was located, confirmed several detentions at the prison, but declined to name anyone.

“A number of people were detained because they neglected their duties,” Wesa’s spokesman said.

Several police from stations located around the prison on the outskirts of Kandahar city had also been dismissed for sleeping when they should have been on patrol as the mass breakout took place under cover of darkness, he said.

Afghanistan’s government has launched an investigation into the escape, the second in three years at the jail, which Karzai’s chief spokesman said had exposed serious holes in the country’s security preparedness.

In 2008, around 1,000 prisoners including Taliban fighters escaped after a truck bomb blew open the jail gates. That mass escape quickly led to a surge in fighting.

In October 2003, another tunnel dug under the prison complex also saw 41 insurgents escape from Sarposa, which used to be run by the Taliban government prior to the U.S.-led invasion of the country in late 2001.

Justice Minister Habibullah Ghaleb, in a letter to President Hamid Karzai, laid much of the blame for the breakout from Sarposa on failings by foreign and Afghan security forces, speculating also that it was an inside job.


International police agency Interpol warned that the failure by western advisers to properly train Afghan security personnel since 2008 in recording biometric identifying data for use globally had exposed a flaw in anti-terrorist cooperation.

“It is simply shocking that three years after the largest prison break in Afghanistan history, including of convicted terrorists, there is no data to be shared with law enforcement regionally and globally in the event of an escape,” said Interpol Secretary General Ronald K. Noble.

Interpol countries had agreed as far back as 2006 to alert the global law enforcement bodies to prison escapes of suspected militants and other dangerous criminals, Noble said.

“But with no strong identifying information, such as photographs, fingerprints or DNA available to law enforcement on the ground, their efforts are significantly hampered,” he said.

The escape of so many hardened insurgent fighters is a serious blow so close to the start of the summer fighting months. It also follows a concerted NATO and Afghan campaign to capture militants over the past year.

Writing by Rob Taylor; Editing by Alex Richardson