The New York Times, August 3, 2020
29 Dead After ISIS Attack on Afghan Prison
The 20-hour gun battle left officials scrambling to recapture hundreds of prisoners, including many from the Islamic State and the Taliban
By Zabihullah Ghazi and Mujib Mashal
JALALABAD, Afghanistan — A militant assault on a prison complex in eastern Afghanistan ended on Monday after a 20-hour gun battle, leaving 29 people dead and officials scrambling to recapture hundreds of prisoners, including many from the Islamic State and the Taliban.
The attack at the prison in Jalalabad City was claimed by the Islamic State. It began on Sunday night when a brief cease-fire between the Afghan government and the Taliban was still in place. Its timing underscored the complexity of a conflict that is growing deadlier by the day, even as peace talks face obstacles.
Gen. Yasin Zia, the chief of the Afghan army who arrived in the city to lead the last stretch of the operations, said ten assailants were involved in the attack and all were killed. The security perimeter was first breached with a car-bomb before attackers with assault rifles streamed in and started a gun battle with prison guards.
At least 29 people had been killed and 48 others wounded, according to Attaullah Khogyani, a spokesman for the governor of Nangarhar Province. The casualties included civilians, inmates and security forces, he said.
The assault, which left much of the prison’s security barriers destroyed and brought the city to a standstill, was one of the most complicated operations claimed by the Islamic State’s chapter in Afghanistan.
As its territory has been constricted significantly by a campaign of military operations over the past couple of years, the group has largely turned to gruesome attacks on soft-targets, such as civilians with little protection.
But the Islamic State may not be the biggest winner in the jailbreak. A senior Afghan official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that only a third of the prison’s population of about 1,800 included ISIS loyalists. The rest were split among Taliban prisoners and criminals. All of them got a chance to break free, at least for a while.
Mr. Khogyani said about 1,000 prisoners who had tried to escape had been recaptured, and that another 400 — stuck inside the jail during the shootout — had been rescued.
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