KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — U.S. and NATO troops aided Afghan forces with reconnaissance in a hunt Saturday for 870 inmates who escaped prison after a sophisticated Taliban assault that even NATO conceded was a success for the militants.
Afghanistan's deputy interior minister, Munid Mangal, said about 1,000 prisoners were housed in Kandahar's Sarposa Prison when dozens of militants on motorbikes attacked the facility late Friday. Seven police and several prisoners died in the assault, he said.
One suicide bomber detonated a tanker truck full of explosives at the prison gate while a second bomber blasted an escape route through a back wall. Rockets fired from inside the prison's courtyard collapsed an upper floor.
The police chief of Kandahar province, Sayed Agha Saqib, said 390 Taliban prisoners were among the 870 inmates who escaped. NATO's International Security Assistance Force first said Saturday that 1,100 prisoners had escaped but later revised the figure to around 900.
"We admit it," NATO force's chief spokesman, Brig. Gen. Carlos Branco, said. "Their guys did the job properly in that sense, but it does not have a strategic impact. We should not draw any conclusion about the deterioration of the military operations in the area. We should not draw any conclusion about the strength of the Taliban."