Insurgents dug a tunnel to the main prison in the southern province of Kandahar and freed hundreds of prisoners, including several of its leaders, officials said Monday in a serious setback to security ahead of the withdrawal of foreign troops .
The chief spokesman of Afghanistan's president described the incident as a disaster has exposed serious vulnerabilities in the government.
"This is a coup, is something that should not have happened (...) (...) We are trying to figure out what exactly happened and what is being done to compensate for the disaster of the prison," he said at a press conference Omer Wahid.
"It shows a great vulnerability in the Afghan government," he added.
Tooryalai Wesa, governor of the volatile Kandahar province, told Reuters that 478 prisoners escaped due to the negligence of the Afghan security forces in the main prison in the province.
The responsible official said the investigation had reached the beginning of the tunnel, located in a house near the prison.
Gen. Ghulam Dastgir, governor in charge of the prison, told Reuters that all prisoners had escaped through the tunnel, which was later filled with explosives by insurgents.
"No one ran out the front door, all went through the tunnel. Insurgents worked (in the tunnel) for a few months," Dastgir.
"The Taliban planted bombs inside the tunnel and it is difficult to investigate until the explosives are removed," he added.
The prison, classified as the safest in Afghanistan, is on the outskirts of the city of Kandahar.
Some analysts said that the flight is a serious setback for the country's security and that there are doubts whether the incident had taken place with the complicity of prison guards and whether there really was a tunnel.
The Taliban said in a statement that 541 prisoners escaped by digging a long tunnel which took months and then were transported in vehicles to safer locations.
"The mujahideen began to dig a tunnel 320 meters long to prison (...) which was completed after a period of five months, avoiding the checkpoints and (the) main Kandahar-Kabul road that leads directly to political imprisonment, "said a Taliban statement.
They added that the tunnel was completed Sunday night, with hundreds of insurgents who fled in a period of four hours.
Ahmad Farid Najibi, Justice Ministry spokesman, said authorities launched an operation to apprehend the criminals, but so far only six had been arrested.
Afghan and foreign soldiers formed a large perimeter around the prison on Monday morning, which makes it difficult to verify information on the flight independently.