Afghan troops retake prison attacked by ISIL group, 29 killed

ISIL claims responsibility for attack on Jalalabad jail that also wounded dozens and saw hundreds of prisoners flee.

Afghanistan prison attack
ISIL fired on Afghan troops for several hours, even after the security forces retook the prison and began recapturing some of the inmates [AP]

Afghan security forces have retaken a prison in eastern Afghanistan after an hours-long gun battle with the ISIL fighters who targeted the facility in an attack that killed 29 people, officials said.

At least 10 ISIL fighters involved in the assault were also killed while trying to free their comrades from the prison in Jalalabad, the capital of Nangarhar province, said Ajmal Omar, a provincial council member.

“The attack is now over,” Sohrab Qaderi, a member of the provincial council, told Reuters news agency.

The rest of the dead were believed to be prisoners, civilians and Afghan forces, although no official breakdown was given.

Another 50 people were wounded in the attack that began on Sunday when a suicide bomber detonated his explosives-packed vehicle at the entrance to the prison complex some 115 kilometres (70 miles) east of Kabul, Omar said.

Other fighters simultaneously stormed the prison and took up positions in nearby residential buildings.

They fired on Afghan troops for several hours, even after the security forces retook the prison and began recapturing some of the escaped inmates.

Omar said about 430 prisoners stayed in their cells or hid during the siege. It was unclear how many prisoners remain at large.

Gunmen attack prison in Afghanistan's Jalalabad
A provincial council member in Jalalabad said the attackers detonated a car laden with explosives outside the government-run prison [Al Jazeera]

Earlier, a Taliban spokesperson said on Twitter that the group was not involved in the attack, which came on the final day of a rare truce between the armed group and the Afghan government to mark Eid al-Adha.

The prison attack came a day after the Afghan intelligence agency said a senior ISIL commander had been killed by Afghan special forces near Jalalabad, about 150km (93 miles) east of the capital, Kabul.

Nangarhar has been hit by regular attacks, several of them claimed by ISIL.

Afghan security forces transport detained prisoners, Jalalabad
Afghan security forces transport prisoners who escaped from a jail in Jalalabad following an attack claimed by ISIL [Parwiz/Reuters]

On May 12, a suicide bomber killed 32 mourners at a funeral for a police commander in the province in one of the deadliest attacks this year, also claimed by ISIL.

A United Nations report last month estimated there are some 2,200 ISIL members in Afghanistan, and that while the group is in “territorial retreat” and its leadership has been depleted, it “remains capable of carrying out high-profile attacks in various parts of the country, including Kabul”.

Efforts to get peace talks under way between the Taliban and the Kabul government have stalled after the Taliban and the United States signed an agreement in February, touted as the deal to end Washington’s longest war.

The agreement, struck in Qatar’s capital, Doha, lays out plans for the withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan in exchange for security guarantees from the Taliban.

Last week, another UN report said almost 1,300 civilians, including hundreds of children, had been killed in Afghanistan in the first six months of the year, a 13-percent drop compared with the same period in 2019.

The report credited the drop in part to the reduction of operations by international forces in support of Afghan government forces and also to a decrease in the number of attacks by ISIL.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies