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Most Afghan escapees remain free

Only around 65 of the 480 prisoners who escaped from Afghanistan's largest prison have so far been recaptured.

The Kandahar provincial governor's office said that Afghan and international forces were working together to find the men - nearly all Taliban militants - who got out through a tunnel.

But even if a sizeable number are recaptured, the already weak provincial government will continue to struggle to recover from the blow to its image.

Adding to the feelings of insecurity, the prison break came less than two weeks after the Kandahar police chief was killed by a suicide bomber inside his heavily defended office compound.

"How can we trust or rely on a government that can't protect the police chief inside the police headquarters and can't keep prisoners in the prison?" asked trader Islamullah Agha Bashir.

"Last night while we were eating dinner I told my two sons not to go out as much because I am afraid that now when the morale of the Taliban is high, they will attack more."

In Kabul, officials started to piece through the details of the escape and place blame. Justice Minister Abibullah Ghalab sent a formal letter to President Hamid Karzai acknowledging that prison officials or guards probably acted as accomplices but also saying that Afghan and international security forces should have detected the plot.

The Taliban said the prison break was five months in the making, with diggers starting the tunnel from under a nearby house while they arranged for inmates to get cell keys.

"The escape of all the prisoners from one tunnel ... shows that collaborators inside the prison somehow provided an opportunity," Mr Ghalab said in the letter.

However, he also noted that Afghan police searched the compound from which the tunnel originated about two and a half months before the prison break and he said that Canadian and American forces have been responsible for security improvements to the prison. A full investigation was under way.

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