June 26, 2008 / 11:49 AM / 12 years ago

Afghanistan sacks police chief over jail break

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (Reuters) - The Afghan government sacked the police chief of Kandahar on Thursday for negligence after some 400 Taliban prisoners and 700 criminals escaped this month in one of the biggest jail breaks in history.

Canadian soldiers patrol the Arghandab district of Kandahar province June 25, 2008. REUTERS/Omar Sobhani

The Taliban scored an important tactical and propaganda win when a suicide bomber in a fuel truck smashed into the gates of Kandahar prison on June 13 and militants stormed the building, setting their comrades free.

The prison break was a major embarrassment for the Afghan government as it showed Taliban insurgents were able to mount a large operation in the heart of the country’s second city. Afghan authorities ordered an immediate investigation.

“The investigation shows some officials neglected their duties, therefore the government of Afghanistan has decided to sack General Sayed Aqa Saqeb, the provincial police chief of Kandahar,” the Interior Ministry said in a statement.

The head of the intelligence agency and the head of police criminal investigations were also removed from their posts and the cases of all three were forwarded to the attorney general’s office for further investigation, the ministry said.

Several other officials will also lose their jobs.

“The government of Afghanistan will never allow anyone to play with the security of the Afghan people,” the ministry said.

Three days after the jailbreak, more than 200 Taliban insurgents seized some seven villages close to Kandahar, forcing the Afghan army to fly in hundreds of reinforcements and mount a major operation to drive them out.

Afghan security forces backed by around 64,000 foreign troops are struggling to contain the Taliban insurgency centered in the mainly ethnic Pashtun south and east of the country.

While the Taliban are routinely routed in any direct fight with Afghan and international forces, the insurgent campaign of hit-and-run attacks, backed by suicide and roadside bombs is aimed at wearing down Afghan support for the Kabul government and forcing Western public opinion to demand troops be brought home.

Writing by Jon Hemming; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani

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