Taliban fighters dressed as Afghan policemen freed hundreds of inmates yesterday in a pre-dawn attack on the main prison in the central Afghan city of Ghazni.
Mohammed Ali Ahmadi, the deputy governor of Ghazni, said the insurgents blew up a car bomb at the prison entrance at around 2am local time. Several armed gunmen wearing Afghan police uniforms then stormed the facility, located around 160km from Kabul, he added.
The attack is the latest sign of the Taliban's ability to seriously challenge Afghan security forces in the wake of the international military drawdown and raised fears of a further deterioration in the stability of the province.
Safiullah, a Ghazni resident, said in an interview by telephone the force of the car bomb woke up "the entire town" and gunfire was heard for several hours afterwards.
Out of 453 inmates, 355 are believed to have escaped.
At least 148 of those had been imprisoned due to links with the Taliban and other militant groups.
Zabiullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the Taliban, said three insurgents had been killed in the jailbreak. Afghan officials said four Afghan security personnel also died.
The attack appeared to have been well-planned. According to Mr Ahmadi, the Taliban had planted mines around the prison to thwart attempts to send security reinforcements.
One of the insurgents killed during the attack was a former inmate known to still have contact with current prisoners. He escaped last year, Mr Ahmadi said.