Taliban militants freed from Kandahar jail infiltrate Pak, Afghan villages

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Kandahar, June 16 : Nearly 400 Taliban militants, who escaped from the Sarpoza Provincial Prison in Kandahar following Friday night's brazen prison-break, are learnt to have arrived in their homes in nearby rural areas and even in Pakistani villages situated along the Indo-Afghan border, said a senior Taliban commander.

Canadian troops patrol these restive rural areas in Afghanistan, lying near Kandahar.

The Taliban commander said that most of the Taliban prisoners were first taken to villages in the turbulent Panjwai district, given money, and from where they scattered in different directions, including nearby Helmand province, Kabul and Pakistan.

"Many of them have gone to their homes," the globeandmail.com quoted him as saying.

"A small fleet of motorbikes and cars was waiting for the prisoners," confirmed the 40-year-old Taliban commander.

Locals living in the Panjwai district, a rural area west of Kandahar that Canadian troops have fought hard to keep out of insurgent hands, confirmed seeing numerous former Taliban prisoners in their villages. "On Saturday morning, when we came out from our houses, we saw several Taliban ... they were very happy, smiling and laughing," said a 33-year-old taxi driver from Talukan, a village about 45 km southwest of Kandahar.

On the condition of anonymity, the taxi-driver further said that he knew of least four men who were injured while escaping from the Jandahar jail. He said they received medical treatment in the village.

The brazen prison break is a significant victory for the Taliban and has raised serious questions about the Afghan and NATO security effort in southern Afghanistan, a hotbed of insurgency activity.

Before Canadian troops could arrive to secure the area on Friday, the bulk of the prison population, about 1100 people, including around 600 common criminals, was already gone.

Canada's top soldier in Afghanistan said that within minutes of the prison attack, NATO had surveillance units in the sky scanning the area for fugitives.

The jail is about 30 kilometres from the main international base at Kandahar airfield, and once Canadian soldiers became aware of the seriousness of the attack, they arrived at the prison within 40 minutes, Brigadier-General Denis Thompson told reporters. But, the inmates were long gone by then, Kandahar Police Chief Syed Aqa Saqib said and added: "They escaped the prison very fast - within a few minutes."

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