Manhunt under way for ISIS escapees of Nangarhar jailbreak

Salaam Times and AFP


In this picture taken August 3, an inmate watches from behind a closed gate after terrorists stormed a prison in Jalalabad. At least 29 people were killed in the August 3 attack. [Noorullah Shirzada/AFP]

KABUL -- Afghan authorities are searching for about 270 inmates -- most of them members of the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syira" (ISIS) -- who remained on the loose after escaping during a deadly jailbreak.

At least 29 people were killed when ISIS gunmen attacked the facility in Jalalabad on Sunday (August 2), with fierce fighting lasting until Monday (August 3) afternoon.

The terrorist raid shattered the relative calm of the final day of a three-day ceasefire between the Taliban and Afghan forces that did not include ISIS.

More than 1,300 inmates tried to escape, a senior Afghan security official told AFP on condition of anonymity, but most were either swiftly re-arrested or surrendered when security forces surrounded them.


Afghan forces August 4 in Jalalabad display munitions they seized from ISIS members who shelled the local airport August 2. Troops killed them all August 4. [Nangarhar governor's office]

But some 270 prisoners are "still on the loose", the official said.

Most of those who escaped are from ISIS's Khorasan branch (ISIS-K), he said.

They included militants responsible for several bloody attacks, a second security official told AFP.

Ataullah Khogyani, a spokesman for the Nangarhar governor, confirmed many prisoners were still missing but could not say how many were ISIS members.

"A number of prisoners escaped ... Three of them were re-arrested today, and efforts are under way to detain all fugitive prisoners," Khogyani said Wednesday (August 5).

Meanwhile, security forces Tuesday (August 4) shot and killed another group of ISIS fighters who had launched a mortar attack targeting Jalalabad airport at about the same time the prison raid commenced.

Authorities displayed several mortar shells and other ammunition seized from a house in the neighbourhood to journalists.

The brazen raid and jailbreak came a day after Afghanistan's intelligence agency announced the killing of Assadullah Orakzai, a top ISIS commander, near Jalalabad.

Orakzai was involved in several deadly attacks against Afghan security forces, the National Directorate of Security said Saturday (August 1).

ISIS remnants

Nangarhar Province, where ISIS got its first foothold in Afghanistan, has seen repeated attacks by the group, including a suicide bomb that killed 32 mourners at a funeral in May.

The attacks have continued even though officials last year claimed ISIS had been defeated in Nangarhar.

"A large number of their leadership was arrested or killed... so [the prison raid] was some sort of revenge to free some of their comrades," a senior Afghan security official said.

Some local officials and analysts have cautioned that elements of the group remained.

"[ISIS] wants to challenge the monopoly of the Taliban over militancy or anti-state violence in the country," said Abdul Sayed, an independent researcher on militancy in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

"They now seem to have changed their strategies to [launch] high profile terrorist attacks in Nangarhar to Kabul to provide proof of their existence," Sayed told AFP.

"ISIS has not yet been eliminated in Afghanistan," said Gen. (ret.) Sikander Asghari, the former deputy director of the General Directorate of Local Police and a military affairs analyst in Kabul.

"The group still has small cells in Nangarhar, Kunar and some other areas," Asghari said.

"ISIS is still considered a threat to Afghanistan's national security, and the escape of hundreds of its prisoners from Nangarhar prison, including commanders of the group, increases the level of threat to the security situation throughout the country, especially in Nangarhar Province," he added.

The jailbreak will increase insecurity, agreed Zabihullah Zmarai, a former member of the Nangarhar Provincial Council.

"[ISIS's] attack on Nangarhar prison showed that it is active in Afghanistan and that the group's threat to the security, peace and stability of the country remains," Zmarai said.

[Sulaiman from Kabul contributed to this report.]

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All officials of the prison of Nangarhar province should be fired and severely punished, because they did not perform their duties properly. How is it possible as terrorists have launched such a large attack in Jalalabad city, the capital of Nangarhar, and hundreds of dangerous prisoners could have escaped, but Nangarhar prison’s authorities are still alive? I am sure that the prison’s authorities, especially the director of the prison, are involved in this incident. If he was not involved, then why did he survive and was not hurt? All the misfortunes in this country are government authorities who are not appointed on the basis of merit and competence, but they are appointed on the basis of relationships. Hundreds of experienced generals are sitting at home in this country, but the government has appointed an incompetent person as the governor of Nangarhar Prison. We will see bigger events than this unless corruption in the government is completely eliminated.