29 killed as Islamic State attack on Afghan prison ends after 22 hours
(Update 2: adds info)
By Baber Khan Sahel
Kabul, Aug 3 (efe-epa).- An attack by Islamic state militants on a prison in Afghanistan’s eastern Nangarhar province ended around 5 pm on Monday after 22 hours of fighting in which 29 people and the 11 attackers were killed.
“The terrorist attack was ended after all 11 attackers were killed in the clearance operation,” provincial governor’s spokesperson Attaullah Khogyanai said in a statement.
The attack had started around 6.30 pm on Sunday when militants car bombed the entrance to the prison in the provincial capital of Jalalabad, and took positions inside the premises and nearby buildings.
The ministry of defense confirmed in a separate statement that security forces had cleared both the prison compound and a nearby building where armed attackers had entrenched themselves with both heavy and light weapons
At least 29 people – including civilians, members of the security forces and five prisoners – were killed in the attack, while 50 others, including six prisoners, had been wounded.
The ministry said that around 40 families trapped in a nearby building that came under attack had been rescued by the defense personnel during the clearance operation.
Nangarhar Public Health Department spokesperson Zahir Adil told EFE that the wounded were being attended to in hospitals.
There were 1,793 prisoners – including criminals and Taliban members – housed inside the prison. After the attack, some 430 inmates remained inside while 1,025 were detained by security forces as they tried to flee the prison and the remaining were still missing or among the casualties.
A combined delegation from Kabul, led by the Army’s Chief of Staff Muhammad Yasin Zia, had arrived in Jalalabad earlier to assess the attack and to help restore the situation back to normal.
President Ashraf Ghani called the incident a terrorist attack that went against Islamic values and humanity and called for a reduction in violence.
“Terrorists cannot weaken the intention and will of our people for achieving peace and stability,” Ghani said in a statement.
The siege came on the third and final day of the Muslim festival of Eid-ul-Adha, during which the government and the Taliban had announced a ceasefire.
The attack was claimed by the IS, after Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid released a statement on Sunday ruling out their involvement at Jalalabad.
The IS attack also came just a day after the Afghan Intelligence agency announced having killed Ziaurahman, also known as Assadullah Orakzai, the terror group’s intelligence chief in Afghanistan, in a special operation in the same city.
Meanwhile, the government and the Taliban are involved in a long drawn prisoner swap process as a part of a deal between the US and the insurgents that could bring an end to nearly two decades of war in the country.
The prisoner swap was part of the peace agreement signed in Qatar between the Taliban and the US on Feb. 29, wherein the government was to release 5,000 prisoners, of which 400 remain, and the Taliban were to free 1,000 Afghan security forces members, a promise that the rebels completed on Thursday.
Last week, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani announced that he will call for a Loya Jirga, an assembly of elders and political elites, to advise the government on the release of the remaining 400 Taliban prisoners to complete the prisoner exchange process, which is a pre-condition for intra-Afghan talks. EFE-EPA