Afghanistan’s justice minister has said the 488 inmates who escaped from Kandahar’s main prison through a tunnel must have had inside help.
Habibullah Ghaleb told President Hamid Karzai that much of the blame for the Taliban-led breakout lay with local security forces and foreign troops.
Mr Ghaleb said the house where the 360m-long tunnel began was searched 10 weeks ago but nothing was reported.
Only 71 prisoners have been recaptured since a manhunt was launched on Monday.
The governor of Sarposa jail, Gen Ghulam Dastgir, said many of the escapees were likely to have fled to safe havens in neighbouring Pakistan.
The Taliban said 541 prisoners had escaped through the tunnel, and that 106 of them were commanders – four of them former provincial chiefs.
The political wing of the jail, where the 1m (3ft) wide tunnel emerged on Sunday night, was like a compound, Gen Dastgir said, with prisoners free to move between cells and no locks on individual doors.
But Mr Ghaleb said there had been failings: the inmates of each cell should not have been able to access the room where the tunnel began, he said, while the “big convoy” of vehicles used to move the prisoners from the house should have been spotted from the prison.
“The mass escape of the prisoners from one tunnel indicates inside help and facilitation from the prison,” he said in an initial report.
Mohammad Abdullah, one of the inmates at Sarposa who the Taliban claimed had helped organise the escape, said “friends” had managed to obtain copies of the keys to the cells beforehand, suggesting collusion by the guards.
Mr Ghaleb also criticised Canadian and US troops who have been responsible for security improvements to the prison. He asked how they had failed to notice the tunnel was being dug underneath their feet….
How much did they trust the word of Afghan authorities about the prison?