Officials Scramble as Taliban Frees 541 Kandahar Prisoners

US Arrests the Shoeless in Effort to Find Political Prisoners

by Jason Ditz, April 25, 2011

541 political prisoners escaped from the Kandahar Prison in the early morning hours, sparking condemnations of security in Afghanistan and a scramble among officials to track down the various dissidents who made off into Kandahar Province.

Afghan government officials called the break a “disaster” and Taliban spokesmen took credit for the break, saying it took upwards of five months to dig the tunnel. The insurgents that broke into the prison managed to release all of the prisoners without alerting the guards until they were gone.

It is unclear what charges, if any, most of the prisoners were being held on. Some were described as “Taliban sympathizers,” and are likely even moreso after having been freed by the group. Security forces are now scrambling to recapture them all, and say they found 26.

But it doesn’t appear that the US has any promising leads in tracking down all the rest, with one soldier saying that “basically there’s an order out to arrest anyone walking around barefoot in Kandahar,” with the reasoning being that the prisoners had no shoes when they escaped. Whether this will net the actual political prisoners or just random people with no shoes remains to be seen, however.

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