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NATO, Afghan Forces Launch Massive Search for Hundreds of Escaped Taliban Prisoners

A massive search effort has been launched to track down hundreds of Taliban militants and other prisoners freed Friday in a brazen attack on a prison in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar.

NATO dispatched drones to search for the escaped prisoners from the sky as Afghan police forces fanned out across the region, according to the Times of London.

The prison break involved a bomb and rocket attack that knocked out the front gate and damaged a prison floor.

A local police official said 870 prisoners escaped, including 390 Taliban, according to the Associated Press, though NATO's International Security Assistance Force put the number of escapees slightly higher, at around 1,100.

NATO spokesman Brig. Gen. Carlos Branco conceded that the assault was a success but downplayed its significance.

"We admit it," Branco said. "Their guys did the job properly in that sense, but it does not have a strategic impact. We should not draw any conclusion about the deterioration of the military operations in the area. We should not draw any conclusion about the strength of the Taliban."

Nine police officers were killed and a dozen wounded, the Times of London reported.

Qari Yousef Ahmadi, a Taliban spokesman, said 30 fighters on motorbikes and two suicide bombers had carried out the raid, according to the Times.