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Afghan Prison Attack Leaves At Least 39 Dead As Hundreds Of Prisoners Escape


Smoke billows from a prison after a militant attack in the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad on August 3

An attack by Islamic State (IS) militants on a prison in Afghanistan's eastern Nangarhar Province has left at least 39 people dead as violence continues in the war-torn nation.

Civilians, security forces, prisoners, and militants were among those killed in the assault, Afghan officials said on August 3. The death toll includes at least 10 militants.

IS claimed responsibility for the attack via its Amaq news agency.

The assault began on August 2 when the IS militants detonated a car bomb outside the prison in the provincial capital of Jalalabad around 6:00 p.m. local time and then proceeded to storm it, sparking a gun battle with security forces that raged through the night.

The militants released some of the compound's nearly 1,800 prisoners, which include Taliban and IS members, along with common criminals.

The fighting continued into August 3 as militants exchanged fire with security forces from buildings near the prison, according to an RFE/RL correspondent in Jalalabad.

Afghan officials announced later in the day that the attack was over but said many prisoners were still on the loose.

Officials initially said between 50 and 100 inmates escaped but that number was revised dramatically upward to more than 300.

The surrounding residential area is one of high security, with the provincial governor's office nearby.

IS Intelligence Chief Killed

The attack came one day after Afghan special forces announced they had killed Assadullah Orakzai, the intelligence chief of IS's Afghan headquarters in Jalalabad.

The IS affiliate in Afghanistan has suffered heavy losses over the past year but could still undermine the nation’s troubled peace process through continued attacks, analysts have said.

The U.S. military command in Kabul said in late July that the IS affiliate “remains a threat to Afghanistan, the U.S., NATO allies, and our partners” despite being flushed out of Nangarhar and Kunar provinces.

Meanwhile, the UN warned in a recent report that IS remains capable of high-profile attacks and hopes to recruit more fighters from among opponents of a deal between the United States and Taliban militants, who have long battled against Kabul's authority.

The U.S.-Taliban deal, signed in February, is aimed at reducing U.S. troop numbers and encouraging direct peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government.

However, Taliban militants have continued to carry out attacks to disrupt the talks, with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani saying on July 28 that more than 10,000 government troops had been killed or wounded since February.

The August 2 IS assault came on the third and final day of a cease-fire between the Taliban and the Afghan government to mark the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha.

Ghani and the Taliban have both indicated that intra-Afghan talks could begin immediately after the festival.

With reporting by AFP, AP, and Reuters
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