The Afghan military has raided a Taliban-held prison and freed 16 hostages, including civilian and security personnel, in the restive southern province of Helmand, officials said Monday.
A Defense Ministry spokesman, Dawlat Waziri, told VOA the overnight raid in the district of Gerishk also killed 17 Taliban insurgents, including six suicide bombers who were guarding the prison.
A Taliban spokesman confirmed the raid in the Shoraki area and alleged that “foreign invaders,” a reference to the U.S.-led military coalition in Afghanistan, also took part.
He said eight civilian prisoners were taken away while another seven were killed in the military action and five were wounded.
Local Afghan security officials have also confirmed involvement of foreign troops but the NATO-led Resolute Support mission has not yet commented.
Afghan forces have raided four prisons in Helmand in the past three months and freed dozens of detainees, including members of the national army and police force.
Many of the 14 districts in the province have fallen to the Taliban in recent months, prompting the United States to redeploy hundreds of troops to Helmand to help Afghans defend the provincial capital of Lashkar Gah.
Late last month, the Afghan military raided a Taliban prison in Helmand and freed 35 people, including women and children.
The largest Afghan province, Helmand borders Pakistan and is a major poppy-producing area in Afghanistan. The income from the illegal drugs is a major source of funding for the Taliban insurgency.