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Afghan, Foreign Troops Launch Massive Manhunt to Recapture Prisoners


Afghan and foreign troops have launched a massive manhunt to recapture hundreds of prisoners, including suspected Taliban militants, who escaped a central prison in southern Afghanistan after a raid by Taliban insurgents on Friday night. Authorities say an investigation into the incident is underway and some prison officials are also being questioned to see if they had played any role. In another development, U.S military officials say that a roadside bomb explosion left four soldiers from the US-led coaltion dead in western Afghanistan. From neighboring Pakistan, Ayaz Gul reports.

A Taliban spokesman told reporters by telephone from an undisclosed location that 30 insurgents and two suicide bombers took part in the Friday night attack on the prison in the southern city of Kandahar.

The commando-style assault began with a fuel tanker loaded with explosives hitting the main gate while another suicide bomber blew up the back wall of the facility. The powerful explosions are said to have instantly killed at least 15 security guards and wounded many others.

Afghan Deputy Justice Minister Mohammad Qasim Hashimzai says that heavily armed Taliban militants then stormed the compound and helped prisoners escape.

"Now when this happened, and of course there were some casualties in the beginning and of course when the ISAF forces and the government forces were informed about that, they blocked the roads leading to the prison, and outside of it, and other main roads searching the vehicles to see if they can re-capture those who managed to escape," he said.

Afghan officials say that there were nearly 1,200 prisoners, including up to 400 suspected Taliban militants, before the attack, and most of them are said to have been freed by the attackers.

The jailbreak is being described as a major security breach and has increased security concerns for both the government and foreign forces particularly in southern Afghanistan, where Taliban militants have carried out most of their subversive activities in the past two years.

Under a program agreed to last year to transfer all local prisoners from U.S detention, the U.S. military has handed over an unspecified number of suspected Taliban fighters to Afghan custody.

Meanwhile, a roadside bomb exploded near a U.S military vehicle on Saturday killing four American soldiers. A U.S military spokesman says the attack happened in western Farah province and targeted American personnel helping train Afghanistan's police force.

The violence and jailbreak came a day after international donors at a conference in Paris pledged more than $20 billion for Afghanistan.

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