(Update 1: Updates toll, adds info)
By Baber Khan Sahel
Kabul, Aug 3 (efe-epa).- At least 29 people have been killed and 50 wounded in an ongoing attack by Islamic State militants on a prison in Afghanistan’s eastern province of Nangarhar, officials said Monday.
The attack started around 6.30 pm 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.
At least 29 people – including civilians, members of the security forces and prisoners – have died so far, while nine attackers have also been killed, provincial governor’s spokesperson Attaullah Khogyanai said in a statement.
He added that more than 50 people, mostly civilians, have been wounded.
Nangarhar Public Health Department spokesperson Zahir Adil told EFE that the wounded were being attended to in hospitals.
Khogyanai said that an “operation still continues in the prison and nearby buildings” to clear the remaining explosive materials and to see if any of the attackers were still hiding in the area.
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 and some of them could be among the casualties.
Khogyanai had earlier revealed to EFE that dozens of families had been rescued by the security forces from the buildings where the IS attackers were hiding.
“Security forces are slowly and carefully moving to clear the building floor by floor and room by room in order to not harm possible trapped civilians in upper floors of the building,” Khogyanai explained.
A combined delegation from Kabul, led by the Army’s Chief of Staff Muhammad Yasin Zia, has arrived in Jalalabad to assess the attack and to help restore the situation back to normal.
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, 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