By Baber Khan Sahel
Kabul, Aug 3 (efe-epa).- At least 15 people have died and 42 have been wounded in an ongoing attack by Islamic State militants on a prison in the eastern province of Nangarhar in Afghanistan, officials said Monday.
The attack, which has continued for over 14 hours, started around 6.30pm 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.
“So far, we received 15 dead bodies, including three children and 42 injured people are in the hospital from the site of the attack,” Nangarhar Public Health Department spokesperson Zahir Adil told EFE.
“All injured persons are under treatment and we can say all of them are out of danger for now, but need serious attention,” he added.
Additionally, at least four attackers were killed in the initial car bombing, and three others in the clashes that followed with the security forces, provincial governor’s spokesperson Attaullah Khogyanai told EFE.
“A number of attackers took position in a multi-storey residential building, near the prison and inside the prison. (…) The security forces are clearing the prison step by step,” said Khogyanai, adding that they were still not sure how many attackers were still holed up.
The spokesperson revealed that at least 700 prisoners, who escaped after the attack, were recaptured by the authorities and kept in a temporary prison, but did not provide further details.
Khogyanai further said that dozens of families had also been rescued by the security forces from the buildings where IS attackers were hiding, and there were possibly more families trapped inside, especially on the upper floors.
“Security forces are slowly and carefully moving to clear the building floor by floor and room by room in order not to harm possible trapped civilians in upper floors of the building,” Khogyanai explained.
The attack 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, who was the terror group’s intelligence chief in Afghanistan, in a special operation in 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 do the same with 1,000 Afghan security forces members, which was done on Thursday.
Last week, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani announced 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