KANDAHAR, Oct 11: Forty-one Taliban prisoners tunnelled out of jail in southern Afghanistan in a dramatic escape that is embarrassing for the government and presents yet another security headache in the troubled region.

The break-out from the main jail in the volatile southern city of Kandahar occurred on Friday night, the city’s security chief Gen Salem told Reuters. He said all the prisoners were from one barracks of the jail, which houses some 400 prisoners.

“Last night, in the middle of the night, about 40 prisoners escaped through a 30-metre tunnel,” he said. “They included some important Taliban — one was the brother of Maulavi Obaidullah.”

Obaidullah was Taliban defence minister and has evaded capture since the Taliban government was overthrown by US-led forces two years ago. In June, he was named as part of a 10-man leadership council by shadowy Taliban leader Mulla Omar.

Taliban spokesman Haji Abdul Latif said Obaidullah’s brother was Maulavi Abdullah and there were a total of 41 escapees, all of whom were from the Taliban. Senior government intelligence official Attaullah Khan said it was possible some prison guards assisted the escape, but Latif said the prisoners acted alone.

Kandahar province has been the scene of many recent Taliban attacks that have curtailed aid and reconstruction work.

The escape will also be an embarrassment for the new governor for Kandahar, Yusuf Pashtun, who was appointed by President Hamid Karzai only in August. Kandahar, which borders Pakistan, was the birthplace of the Taliban.

In late August, officials said the jail on the outskirts of the city was holding 50 to 60 “political inmates”, a term usually used to describe Taliban members.—Reuters

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