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Five senior Taliban leaders, four from Helmand and one from Zabul, escaped from Pul-i-Charki prison overnight, breaking reports from Kabul say. Taliban spokesman Zabibullah Muhajid claimed no money was paid and it was Taliban agents who had penetrated the prison security system who helped conduct the escape.
The group was a mix of nefarious characters serving life terms and a few were facing the death penalty. The identities of the Taliban escapees have yet to be disclosed.
In July 2005, four senior al-Qaeda leaders escaped from the US-run Bagram prison compound. Omar al Farooq, a Kuwaiti escapee, was later killed by British Special forces in southern Iraq in Sept. 2006. Abu Nasir al Qattani, a Saudi national escapee, was arrested during a US commando raid in eastern Afghanistan in Nov. 2006. The other two escapees, a Syrian national and a Libyan al Qaeda preacher, remain at large.
The Afghan prison system has been repeatedly accused of corruption and undermining the security establishment’s efforts to derail the insurgency. Top Taliban leader Mullah Sorkh Naqibullah, also known as the “Red Mullah,” bragged to the BBC late last year that he had bribed his way out of custody three times since 2003. He was recently killed during a targeted raid by Coalition forces in Helmand province.
(This story will be updated as developments occur.)
A former prison official, Malik recalled, had offered to pave the ground for their flight in exchange for a $120,000 bribe. They allegedly paid the jail chief $20,000 in front money while the rest of the amount was to be given later on.