Afghan Forces Retake Jail Attacked by ISIS; 29 Killed, Hundreds of Prisoners Missing

August 3, 2020 Updated: August 3, 2020

JALALABAD, Afghanistan—Afghan security forces laid siege to a prison seized by ISIS terrorists in the eastern city of Jalalabad on Monday, with at least 29 people killed after the terrorists’ overnight assault led to a mass jailbreak.

More than 300 prisoners were at large, Attaullah Khugyani, spokesman for the governor of Nangarhar province, said. Of the 1,793 prisoners, more than 1,025 had tried to escape and been recaptured and 430 had remained inside.

“The rest are missing,” he said.

After detonating a car bomb at the entrance on Sunday evening, ISIS gunmen overran the prison where many ISIS terrorists captured during a campaign in the past month were being held, along with Taliban terrorists and common criminals.

Mohammad Idres, one of the prisoners trapped inside and contacted by cellphone, said he could see around four bodies on the ground outside.

“We are very hungry, it’s very hot and we don’t have water,” he told Reuters.

“Sometimes it is quiet and then firing starts,” he said. “The security forces cannot seem to advance because the attackers hold strategic points, including the watchtowers.”

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Afghan security forces keep watch near the site of an attack on a jail compound in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, on Aug. 3, 2020. (Parwiz/Reuters)

ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack, which came a day after the Afghan intelligence agency said special forces had killed a senior ISIS commander near Jalalabad, the provincial capital of Nangarhar.

Officials said Afghan Chief of Army Staff Lt. Gen Yasin Zia arrived on Monday to oversee the operation, involving special forces, to clear the ISIS terrorists holed up inside the prison.

Khugyani said civilians, prisoners and members of security forces were among the 29 dead and more than 50 wounded.

“Eight gunmen were killed as some areas, where the attackers had taken positions, were cleared,” he said.

As the siege dragged through the day, the normally bustling city was placed under a curfew.

“Jalalabad is completely empty,” Qaderi said.

Some 130 km (80 miles) east of Kabul, Jalalabad lies on the highway leading to the Khyber Pass and the Pakistani city of Peshawar.

A United Nations report last month estimated there are around 2,200 ISIS members in Afghanistan, and that while the group has lost territory and its leadership has been depleted, it remains capable of carrying out high-profile attacks.

By Ahmed Sultan and Abdul Qadir Sediqi