2 killed, 11 prisoners escape as bomb, Taliban attacks aid jailbreak in western Afghanistan

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — A smuggled bomb exploded at a western Afghan prison just as Taliban fighters staged coordinated attacks on four police checkpoints early Sunday, allowing 11 inmates — including suspected insurgents — to escape, officials said.

A Taliban spokesman claimed responsibility for the brazen jailbreak in Farah province, saying it had freed insurgent comrades being held there.

A guard died in the prison blast and one inmate was shot and killed while fleeing. One police officer was wounded.

The blast appeared coordinated with armed insurgent attacks on four police checkpoints on the outskirts of Farah city, provincial police chief Gen. Mohammad Faqir Askir.

"Of course this is the work of the Taliban," Askir said. "We think that the militants were trying to keep authorities busy with the attacks on the checkpoints while the explosion happened."

He said there was no armed attack on the prison, only the explosion.

The prison blast came shortly after 2 a.m., destroying a gate and allowing 23 prisoners to run out of the building, Farah province's deputy governor Yonus Rasouli said. One prisoner died and three were wounded when guards opened fire on the fleeing prisoners. Eight other inmates were recaptured, but 11 escaped.

One guard wounded in the explosion died later, Rasouli said.

"The prisoners managed somehow to bring explosives inside the prison," Rasouli said. "It was a strong explosion. Everything was set up from inside the prison."

The Farah prison held a mix of suspected insurgents and common criminals because the province has no funds to build separate detention facilities. Askir confirmed that Taliban suspects were among those who escaped, but could not say how many of the 11 were insurgents.

Rasouli said 347 prisoners were being held in a building meant for only 86. He acknowledged that conditions were poor at many prisons around the country, but said there was no money to build better facilities.

Taliban spokesman Qari Yousef Amadi sent a message to reporters Sunday taking responsibility for the jailbreak, saying "all of our mujahedeen" were freed and claiming that 15 prison guards were killed. The insurgents often exaggerate death tolls of their enemies for propaganda purposes.

In June 2008, the Taliban staged a sophisticated jailbreak that freed nearly 900 prisoners in the southern city of Kandahar.

One suicide bomber detonated a tanker truck full of explosives at the Kandahar prison gate, while a second bomber blasted an escape route through a back wall. Dozens of militants on motorbikes then attacked the facility.