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Taliban's Mass Escape Was Long In The Planning; Here's How It Was Done

The way out: Taliban fighters escaped from the prison through this hole, and the 1,000-foot tunnel beyond.
Allauddin Khan
The way out: Taliban fighters escaped from the prison through this hole, and the 1,000-foot tunnel beyond.

Time, patience "and most likely, inside help."

Those were some of the keys to the Taliban's successful break into a prison in Kandahar, Afghanistan, which was followed Monday by the escape through a 1,000-foot tunnel of around 500 prisoners.

Reuters, which is among the outlets speculating about the inside help, has a report about how Afghan authorities think the Taliban did it.

A nearby house was rented. Digging the tunnel took at least five months. Car jacks were placed under the concrete floor of the prison where the "break-in" would happen. Upward pressure from the jacks cracked the concrete. The digging was accurate: The hole was in an area of the prison where "prisoners [are] free to move between rooms [with] no locks on individual doors."

On the night of the escape, about 100 prisoners an hour made it out, Reuters says.

There's a graphic on the site of The National Post. It estimates the tunnel was tall enough for the prisoners to stand in.

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid tells the BBC that "skilled professionals" helped do the digging and that the dirt was "sold at the market."

Afghan Justice Minister Habibullah Ghaleb, as theLos Angeles Timesreports, says his country's security forces deserve blame — but so do Canadian and U.S. troops who had been stationed near the prison.

The Daily Beast reports it spoke by telephone with two of the men who escaped. They say the escape was coordinated on the inside of the prison by three Taliban "commanders."

And the sheer size of the operation and the large number of prisoners who were able to get out, Ghaleb says, signal there was "help and facilitation from the prison." Also pointing in that direction: The AP says it appears some of those inside had keys to the cells.

Today, AP adds, "the Kandahar provincial governor's office said troops have already caught 71 of those who escaped and killed two who tried to resist. Authorities have biometric data on each prisoner, which aids in their identification, the governor's office said."

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