Islamic State attack on Afghanistan prison kills at least 29 people

At least 29 people have died after militants attacked a prison in eastern Afghanistan that is believed to be holding hundreds of Isis members.

The attack highlighted the challenges ahead for , as US and Nato forces begin to withdraw following America striking a peace deal with the Taliban.

A defence ministry spokesman, Fawad Aman, said the prison was taken back in the afternoon. The fighting also left at least 50 wounded.

Even as Afghan troops seized the prison in Jalalabad, the capital of Nangarhar province, 70 miles east of Kabul, Isis militants continued to fire on Afghan security forces from a nearby neighbourhood.

Sporadic gunfire rang out from nearby residential buildings in central Jalalabad, an area of high security near the provincial governor’s office.

As security forces swept through the prison, they found the bodies of two prisoners apparently killed by Isis, showing the tensions between the two militant factions battling each other in eastern Afghanistan.

The 29 dead included civilians, prisoners, guards and Afghan security forces, said Attaullah Khogyani, the provincial governors’ spokesman.

The attack began on Sunday, when an Isis suicide bomber drove a car laden with explosives up to the prison’s main gate, detonating the bomb. Militants opened fire on the prison’s guards and poured in through the breach.

The Isis affiliate in Afghanistan, known as IS in Khorasan province and headquartered in Nangarhar province, later claimed responsibility for the attack.

The motive of the attack wasn’t immediately clear. However, some of the 1,500 prisoners there escaped during the fighting. Khyogyani said about 1,000 prisoners who earlier escaped had been found by security forces across the city. It wasn’t immediately clear if any prisoners were still at large.

Several hundred prisoners in Jalalabad are believed to be Isis members.

The attack came a day after authorities said Afghan special forces killed a senior Isis commander near Jalalabad.

While Isis’s so-called caliphate stretching across Iraq and Syria has gradually been eliminated after a long campaign, the group has continued fighting in Afghanistan. They have battled the Taliban, whom the US overthrew after the 2001 American-led invasion.

The Taliban’s political spokesman, Suhail Shaheen, told the Associated Press that his group was not involved in the Jalalabad attack. The US struck a peace deal with the Taliban in February.

A second, crucial round of negotiations between the Taliban and the political leadership in Kabul has yet to start. But Washington and Nato have begun withdrawing troops in line with the deal.

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“We have a ceasefire and are not involved in any of these attacks anywhere in the country,” Shaheen said.

The Taliban starting on Friday for the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha. The ceasefire expired on Monday though it was not immediately clear if it would be extended as the US pushes for an early start to intra-Afghan negotiations that have repeatedly been delayed since Washington signed a peace deal with the Taliban in February.

The Taliban have also denied being involved in a suicide bombing in eastern Logar province on Thursday that killed at least nine people and wounded 40.

Source : theguardian[dot]com