KABUL, Afghanistan – Seven Taliban rebels have escaped from Afghanistan's main high-security prison, officials said Tuesday.
The men broke out of Policharki Prison on the outskirts of the capital of Kabul on Sunday while relatives were visiting them, and 10 prison guards suspected of aiding the escape have been arrested, said Gen. Abdul Salam Bakshi.
"We've launched a manhunt for these Taliban members, but there's no sign of them so far," said Bakshi, director of the country's prisons. "They were all caught fighting for the Taliban."
He said the men were from the southern provinces of Helmand and Kandahar, a former Taliban stronghold. They had been sentenced to between 16 and 17 years in prison, but he had no other details about their convictions or identities.
The breakout comes as authorities are refurbishing part of the prison to improve security ahead of the return of Afghan terror suspects being held in U.S. military custody at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The U.S. and the Afghan government said in August that Afghans held at Guantanamo and elsewhere would be sent back to Afghanistan, but didn't say when.
American and allied Afghan forces captured thousands of suspected Taliban and Al Qaeda members in Afghanistan after a U.S.-led invasion toppled the repressive Taliban government in late 2001.
Hundreds of detainees were classified as "enemy combatants" and transferred to Guantanamo, while others were detained at Policharki, or at a large detention facility at Bagram, the U.S. military's headquarters north of Kabul.
The escape is the second in six months. In July, four Al Qaeda members, including one of Usama bin Laden's top lieutenants in Southeast Asia, broke out of Bagram, sparking a massive but unsuccessful manhunt.