Recaptured Afghan fighters tell tales of tunnel escape

 Afghan authorities and foreign troops have launched a manhunt after Monday's escape in Kandahar by almost 500 fighters, which President Hamid Karzai's office called a “disaster”. Seventy-one persons have been recaptured so far.

Several of those fighters, now back in prison, have told how the spectacular escape was staged, with their cell doors opened in darkness by insurgents armed with AK-47 rifles.  “When I went out the Taliban told me ‘you are free and go wherever you want'. The tunnel was very bright and we had to crawl to get out,” said Wali Jan.  “There was plastic pipe on the side of the tunnel and on the other side was an electricity cable with thousands of bulbs. I think the pipe was for breathing air,” Jan said at a media conference organised by Afghan intelligence officials.

Jan said there were around 20 prisoners in his cell when the door was opened for them. They then crawled along the tunnel's dirt floor, a journey which took around 30 minutes in oppressive and crowded conditions. Another escapee, Samiullah said he had not been an insurgent and had known nothing of the escape plan, but had been forced at gunpoint into the tunnel's entrance through a hole in the concrete cell floor.

Jan said that after emerging from the tunnel in darkness he had tried to reach his cousin's house in Kandahar city. But he was soon spotted by security forces who became suspicious because he was barefoot and his clothes had been caked in mud.

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