KABUL – President Hamid Karzai's office on Tuesday acknowledged signs of "cooperation and facilitation from inside" in a huge Afghan prison break in which hundreds of Taliban inmates escaped.
"The escape of all inmates through the tunnel is an indicator of cooperation and facilitation from inside the prison," a statement from the palace said, following an initial report from the justice minister on what happened. Some 488 prisoners, the vast majority of whom are thought to be Taliban, escaped from Kandahar prison in southern Afghanistan through a one-kilometer tunnel overnight Sunday.
Justice Minister Habibullah Ghalib told the president that the house where the tunnel started had been searched by police two and a half months ago.
The Taliban said the tunnel took five months to dig. Ghalib also pointed out that evacuating the escapees from the house where the tunnel emerged would have involved a "big convoy" and that digging in the first place would have required a lot of equipment.
The statement said: "All this shouldn't have remained unnoticed by Afghan and foreign security forces."
Local officials said Tuesday that they had recaptured 65 prisoners.
But experts have warned that the prison break could provide a major boost to the Taliban and threaten recent gains claimed NATO-led forces as the annual fighting season in the south gets under way. Karzai's spokesman Waheed Omer previously described the escape as a "disaster."
Kandahar is the birthplace of the Taliban and the surrounding countryside is the scene of much of the worst fighting between US-led international and Afghan government forces against the insurgents. (AFP)