The Prison-Break: How To Turn Fantasy To Reality
Monday, 21 November 2011 05:01 Abd al-Rauf Hikmat
Kandahar’s main prison is located west of the city in the Sarpoza area, north of Kandahar-Herat highway. It is largest government prison in south Afghanistan, with the capacity to hold thousands of prisoners. The prison comprises several sections surrounded by high and impenetrable walls.
See video of Actual tunnel
This prison is fundamentally well-built, with high surveillance and watch towers set up at its four corners. It is also surrounded by a number of subterranean walls, further to its high [over ground] walls, to prevent tunnels being dug to the outside.
Despite its strong construction and tight security measures, this prison has become the scene of a wonderful story not only in Afghanistan around the globe. Over the past eight years, political prisoners have been able to escape from this prison only three times. The first time was in June 2003 when Mujahideen prisoners dug a tunnel from inside the prison to the outside, enabling all 45 of this ward’s prisoners to escape via the tunnel. Also in June 2008, the Islamic Emirate launched armed and martyrdom attacks on this prison that resulted in the death of all the prison’s guards and released close to 1,200 Mujahideen prisoners. After this incident, the Americans and Kandahar officials paid close attention to the maintenance and preservation of this prison; Canadian forces trained special policemen to guard the prison, watch towers were increased and monitoring cameras installed; the entire prison was encircled by a deep and wide trench. Despite all these measures, the Mujahideen were able, after long planning, for the third time to release 541 prisoners on 25 April 2011.
One of the Mujahideen in Kandahar city, who by his connections gained full knowledge of the inside and outside of the prison, pondered whether it would be possible to dig a tunnel from the inside of a house on the other side of the street into the prison as a means of releasing the prisoners. This fantasy and vision seemed laughable at first even to its owner; he dared not share his opinion with others, but, after more time and continued thinking, he reached a conclusion. On one of these days, while he was riding a motorcycle with two of his comrades, he shared that view with them. They thought it was impossible and deemed it dangerous to attempt, but they placed their trust on Allah and shared their opinion with the Mujahideen high command in Kandahar and they revealed to their trusted comrades their decision to implement this plan regardless of danger.
Six months ago these Mujahideen rented a house opposite the south corner of Kandahar prison. Initially they built a new room. Then they brought in all necessary equipment and machines to make concrete, hiring a number of workers who worked during the day. But in the afternoon, when the workers left, the Mujahideen stayed under the pretence of serving as guards. It was during that time that they proceeded to dig the tunnel from within the room they had just built.
CNN video "Inside the Taliban's jailbreak tunnel"
Hard Work for Four Months
At first, four Mujahideen implemented this process: one of them was to hit with the pickaxe, digging the tunnel, while the other three were to move the soil. The tunnel was narrow and the soil could not be moved out by wheelbarrows, so some operation planners went to the market and bought a number of children bicycles, removing their small wheels and fixing barrows on them. They were able to prepare wheelbarrows that suited their task. Now they filled these barrows with soil, pulling them by a rope to the tunnel opening and collecting the soil there before moving it to the lorry. In the morning, when the dirt trucks headed to the city for its sale, the Mujahideen would bring in their soil-filled lorry and sell the dirt to get rid of it.
For two months, four Mujahideen were working in the tunnel digging, then their number increased to eight Mujahideen and they were digging four meters every night. When their continued work reached 100m, they faced the issue of ventilation and lack of oxygen; nevertheless they carried on until cutting a distance of 150m. At this point it was terminally difficult to continue working, due to lack of oxygen, and the work carried on no further. In the beginning they tried a ground fan; it resolved the ventilation issue but it was winter and the cold weather caused headaches.
Then they made an air-pumping machine, delivering air by a pipe from the outside to the inside of the tunnel. This was the best method to resolve the ventilation and lack of oxygen - the machine worked quietly by a charged battery. But they then realized the risk of their digging a tunnel under the road that carried the heavy enemy vehicles to the interior of the prison: There was a possibility of a tunnel collapse under intense vehicle pressure. The question was how deep was the tunnel to be dug to exclude that possibility. As an experiment, they parked a lorry atop the tunnel; it suffered no damage, assuring them that it would not suffer because of enemy vehicles.
The tunnel was 2.5m deep between the house and the public road, but as a precaution they deepened it further. Four months passed and the tunnel went 220m, a well iron pipe surprised them before realizing it was not a prison pipe but a pipe to a village south of the prison. In fact, the tunnel diggers, having no map, deviated from the correct path to the right, crossing the road and reaching a village close to the prison. Here Mujahideen recognizer that the target could only be reached with the prison map and distance measuring tools.
One and a Half Months of Efficient Work
The tunnel diggers who lost their way and made an extra 120m now downloaded the prison map off the internet and by which were able to pinpoint the prison location. Using earth measurement tools they re-dug at the distance of 100m of the tunnel directly towards the prison. However, with the passing of the winter, night was shorter. Consequently they increased the number of Mujahideen labourers until they reached twenty-one. Furthermore, earth evaporates less in summer, so ventilation was less of an issue, and the work was faster and more efficient.
By digging 166m they reached the middle of the prison (it must be added that the Islamic Emirate’s site mentioned the distance dug by Mujahideen including the distance dug by error, giving a total of 360m, when the precise distance, excluding additional distance, was 266m. It is worth noting, however, that the tunnel’s height was 70cm and its width 60cm ). The Mujahideen inmates were in two separate locations within the prison: Most were in the political ward, where they numbered 530, but a small number were in a room called ‘Tawqif Khanah’ [detention room].
The tunnel was dug first towards Tawqif Khanah room, as it held a Mujahid aware of the case. He used to hit the ground for one reason or another so that the tunnel diggers would know whether they were ahead or behind or on target. Thus they were able to pinpoint the place, but for verification they poked a blade into the room, until the prisoner assured them of hitting the target. They moved on to the political ward. Five days produced a further 23m, reaching the political ward, cell 7 of which held two prisoners aware of the case. The aim was to take the tunnel to cell 7.
Here again the tunnel diggers wanted to raise a blade to ascertain and avoid any error when opening the tunnel to the prison. The Mujahideen were hesitant: were they underneath cell 6 or 7? To keep the matter secret when the blade would be raised, the two prisoners held a Quran session; all the rooms were vacant, the two aforementioned prisoners left, one to room 6 and the other to room 7. When the blade was raised they realised they were under room 6, contrary to their expectation.
Then two further meters were dug until reaching room 7. Now they could not vacate the rooms with the Quran completion excuse again, so the Mujahideen used the afternoon time when prisoners would go out to washing rooms and get prepared for the noon prayer; the blade was raised and it made it successfully to room 7. The opening place was specified for the escape operation day. It should be added that the blade raising operation was made subsequent to a wise and interesting plan:
Afghans show prison break tunnel in Kandahar 25.04.2011
The prison ground was about 2.5m above the tunnel, with the tunnel’s height of 70cm, how a long blade could fit through this tunnel to reach the prison ground? The Mujahideen cut iron blades of 50cm length and joined them together; when they were raising a blade 50cm by a car jack, they would fix to it another blade and raise it by the jack. So for dismantling the blades, they prepared a machine that would be attached to each blade then hit by a hammer downwards. This was how they were able to pinpoint the location precisely.
The Plan to Extract the Prisoners
After construction of the tunnel, the persons responsible for digging finished their work and requested from the Islamic Emirate’s high command guidelines concerning the plan to extract the prisoners. Therefore officials from Kandahar Province’s and high ranking officials of the Islamic Emirate held continuous consultations in order to conduct a secure extraction.
As a result of the consultation, the following plan was adopted. The mastermind of this operation, who on his own swung the pickaxe laboriously to dig 300m of the tunnel, would himself be the commander of the prisoner extraction. During the operation, he would adopt ad-hoc plans as needed. The high command would tell him about whatever was occurring.
The operation would be kept secret until the last moment of execution. Links would be established with the connected brothers inside the prison; they would be prepared inside the prison to take responsibility for organising and moving out the prisoners according to the plan. Similarly all decisions were taken, delegating the operation command to the aforementioned individual.
To ensure the best execution of the operation, precautionary measures were checked and preparatory steps were taken again to solve the ventilation problem inside the tunnel with the help of a powerful machine to pump air into pipe laid inside the tunnel. This pipe was perforated in ten places to deliver air to all parts of the tunnel. Forty-five lamps were also switched on for illumination of the tunnel. As a precautionary measure, a team of martyrs-to-be were sent to the areas in the vicinity of the prison to launch a military attack if necessary.
To obscure the operation and for fear it would be exposed, person in charge of the operation chose five Mujahideen, out of the team of 21 Mujahideen as stated before on the operation day, so he would not lose all his friends, Insha Allah, if some bad thing were to happen, Allah forbid. Subsequently, the extraction team was composed of six persons.
At 9:00 A.M, these six told the three Mujahideen contacts inside the prison,one whom was in the Tawqif Khanah room while the other two were in the political ward, that the operation would be carried out that night, Allah willing, and that they should be prepared. The two contacts in room 7 of the political ward, in order to communicate the plan to the rest of prisoners about the situation at an appropriate time, prepared a social gathering in their room and invited one or two persons from each room.
Docu on Afghan resisitance by Journeyman pics
The commander of the operation made the following plan:: four of the six brothers would enter the tunnel, two would start working to open the tunnel into the Tawqif Khanah room and two would work to open a tunnel to the political wing; the remaining two would remain outside the tunnel. The Mujahideen would extend a telephone wire inside the tunnel, establishing a connection between brothers outside and the brothers inside and allowing exchange of information e.g. where the work reached and what needed to be done, etc. The four brothers entered the tunnel with car jacks and iron rods and started opening the tunnel to the “Tawqif Khanah” room and the political wing. At about 10 o’clock they easily opened the “Tawqif Khanah” room floor with the jack.
As for the ground of the political ward, its construction was heavy-duty and it took the Mujahideen a long time to punch a hole through. The jack was raising the (cement) concrete ground but due to blocked air in the tunnel it was difficult to make a hole. After many trials the Mujahideen were able to smash through the ground.
After cutting a huge hole to the ward’s cell7, the brothers down the tunnel gave four pistols and four daggers to the involved brothers for use in the operation. They also gave them a telephone handset to establish a connection with the brothers outside the tunnel. Thus the prisoners continued to leave the prison until 1.30 am (25-04-2011) and approximately 250 prisoners exited this way. But the work team realised that if the extraction continued in this way it would last until 2 o’clock, while the plan was for the prisoners to not tarry long outside the prison, because waiting till dawn would be dangerous and possibly cause the operation to be botched.
Therefore, the team postponed the extraction of prisoners for half an hour. They started letting prisoners out again at 2am. By 3am no prisoner remained in this wing. We would like to add that all prisoners were being inspected at the entrance and exit of the tunnel. Carrying their luggage with them could have caused their detention and re-arrest. Also upon exiting, surpluses of more than 3,000 rupees were taken and given to those who did not have any money.
The extraction operation was properly organised. The tasked brothers would wake up the prisoners in each room in turn and guide them to the tunnel. At the exit they would ride the lorries parked at the house; each lorry would carry 36 persons. It was 3:10 am when all the prisoners left and lorries were allowed to depart. The lorries left from the yard but some brothers headed to the town suburbs on foot - they were instructed to cut a distance before returning to the Kandahar-Herat highway after daybreak and to leave the yard using taxis.
It must also be added that two of these lorries that were transporting the prisoners made two journeys to transport them. By 3:30 or 4:00 am no prisoner was in the areas around the prison. It is noteworthy to say that by Allah’s favour and then the Mujahideen carefulness and sagacity, the enemy detected nothing throughout the operation concerning what was going on near them. Even though the house used in the operation was located near a watch tower and surveillance cameras were also installed in the direction of the doors of house, the enemy thankfully did not discover anything.
Costs of the operation
We must add that there were no losses and the Mujahideen do not fire a single bullet, also the financial costs were much lower than expected. According to the person in charge of the operation, the expenses during the operation’s five months reached about 900,000 Afghanis ($20,000 ). These included the house fees, Mujahideen food, lorry charges and other equipment the Mujahideen left in the house after the operation.
On the last day of the operation, the person in charge who built the concrete workshop for the operation execution stated: we sold during the five months 150 concrete blocks, making much profit. He added: After the operation and the final exit, when the house gate was locked, we left the air pumping machine, 45 lamps, 10 concrete blocks, a pole valued at 50,000 Afghanis, 2 power generators, 2 wheelbarrows, 2 car jacks and some building material; but this historic house much benefited us, that compared to it, the expenses mentioned are not worth anything.
I was the second person who came out! (Prisoner Tells his Story)
Narrator of story: Muhammad Idris Preparation of draft: Habib Mujahid
Muhammad Idris, a 23-year old Kandahar resident, had for many years been launching surprise operations in Kandahar city under the Islamic Emirate’s command, was caught 7 months ago by the enemy in Kandahar city and sent to Kandahar prison. The above-mentioned individual says that he has not yet been tried. During his captivity, he lived in cell 9 of the huge prison with other 15 Mujahideen. He was the second man among hundreds of Mujahideen to exit the prison via the tunnel dug from that known house to the prison.
Let us allow Muhammad Idris to tell us his story himself:
The Kandahar prison is set up so: in the middle of the political wing there is a large courtyard and all cell doors open onto this courtyard, so the wing’s main gate is always locked while the internal room doors are always open. Therefore, the prisoners are able to enter other rooms without difficulty and to gather together for the community prayers. On Monday, the inmates of the cell into which the tunnel opened hosted the rest of their friends. They invited from each one or two persons from each cell, in addition to the wing’s prayer imam, an imprisoned scholar, while I represented my cell. So we went for dinner. We had dinner and then Maulavi, the prayer imam, started talking. After some beneficial advice, the sheikh started telling the persons present about the escape plan. None of us knew anything about the subject until then. During his talk he told the prisoners sitting in the room: “Tonight there will be an operation to free and release us; we had better be ready for it” He added,“Anyone of you getting out is ordered not to use his mobile until tomorrow afternoon. If he talks on his mobile he must be careful not to mention how he got out.”
After these instructions, Maulavi told those present, “You must pray to Allah Almighty with sincerity for the success of this operation.” We all started invoking Allah and for half an hour all brothers were busy with invocations and prayers. After that brothers who were aware of the plan came to the above-mentioned cell. They cleared the items and rug in a special part of the room, and in a few moments knocked at the cleared area. The brothers inside the tunnel under the cell put a car jack underneath the space. And they continued the pressure until they destroyed the concrete floor. As this place was low, they brought several columns in order for to break concrete ground, they put columns above the jack and lifted them up. They repeated this two or three times until a huge hole was opened in the middle of the room. Thereafter, the brothers inside the tunnel gave prisoners several pistols, daggers and knives and they also gave them a box containing a telephone headset, a video camera and other equipment which I did not recognize. I looked to the tunnel and saw two Mujahideen: the one who gave the box and another with him. Both drew back and headed to the other opening. At this point the prison escape was delegated to the Mujahideen prisoners who were aware of the operation. They linked the telephone headset with the wire, establishing a connection with the Mujahideen on either side of the tunnel: inside and outside of the prison. These prisoners who were in on the operation then distributed the arms among themselves and other reliable Mujahideen.
This wing had 2 cells of criminal prisoners as well as a number of government spies among the prisoners. The Mujahideen resolved that, if such spies attempted to cause a dispute or chaos or attempted to alert the prison guards, we could them with these weapons and knives. They also used to say that these operations are difficult to achieve and if some brothers would not trust it and shy away from going out, we would force them with these arms to exit. Meanwhile, those brothers briefed on the operation said to the prisoners prior to going down the tunnel: “When you go out on the other side of the tunnel, you will meet a number of Mujahideen. They will take extra money from you, mobiles and other items. They will allow you neither to talk nor to leave; don’t disobey their instructions, but obey them. So we said, fine, we’ll do that
Now I was the second man in the group sitting in the cell towards the tunnel, the first prisoner went down and I followed. The tunnel was wide, but not very wide, I mean we could walk stooped or crawl easily. But the Mujahideen dug it surprisingly - every 15m there was a lamp, so the tunnel was illuminated. Also the Mujahideen laid a 6 inch diameter plastic pipeline along the tunnel for ventilation and used a device in to pump air into the pipe. Small holes were made along the pipe, so I did not feel lack of air in the tunnel. Additionally two wires were laid in the tunnel, one was for the telephone and I did not know whether the other was for electricity or otherwise. For 15 minutes we moved inside the tunnel until reaching the other side, one person was in front of me and a large number were behind me. Upon reaching the tunnel exit there were 15 armed Mujahideen. They inspected all people exiting from the tunnel, taking from them their mobiles and SIM cards. If the prisoner had money more then 3000 rupees, they took the extra and placed it in a cloak they had. If a prisoner had no or little money, they gave them 3,000 rupees from the money they had taken from the others. This was the best method for everyone to have money that would help with any contingencies until they reached their destinations.
After exiting the tunnel, I saw three Mujahideen I knew, so they had me join me to them carrying out the operation. In the house were six transport vehicles. The brothers told us to make anyone exiting from the tunnel get in the cars after inspection and ordered them not to talk and to say nothing, and to only invoke the name of Allah internally, as the house was near a prison tower; if disorder was to occur the enemy might notice. This way the prisoners exited from the tunnel and we made them get into the vehicles. Whenever a vehicle was full we would cover it with a tarp and conceal it. When all brothers finished, some friends said: “Not much space is left in the cars. Brothers who know the area and streets of the town should go on foot to the town suburbs”. The gate of the house gate faced the prison while the back of it faced a residential area. We made a hole in the back wall and the brothers for whom there were no cars wanted to go to the outskirts of the city on foot. I and four of my friends who were city residents discussed it among ourselves and agreed to go to the city. At this point the cars left the house and the five of us went out minutes later to the street. We waited a little while on the pavement until a taxi came, heading towards to the city. So we got in,and the time was 4 am. A policeman stopped our car at Dand roundabout but waved us on. The same inspection was repeated at Madad roundabout, and the policeman said nothing. We reached the city and we had truly been delivered.
There is a saying I must mention here:
The prisoners in the political wing of Kandahar prison are all Mujahideen. There was another wing close by the political wing called Tawqif Khanah where there was also a cell in which Mujahideen were kept. The Mujahideem dug a secondary tunnel to that cell from the main tunnel, and 10-15 Mujahideen prisoners were able to escape from that cell, praise be to Allah.
In the morning, I was wandering in the city and following the news,. I think the enemy did not know about the Mujahideen escape from the prison until 8 am, as I saw no mandatory checks being carried out in the city. After 8am, the enemy began hasty action. The prison guards used to count us twice every day: at 8am and in the afternoon. I think that when they arrived to the political wing at 8 am to count the prisoners, and did not find any of them, only then did they start searching for them. According to my knowledge, not a single Mujahid remained in the prison’s political wing, but there was a room for the mentally ill and they remained inside the prison. As for the other wounded and sick prisoners, all were freed. There was wounded prisoner with two iron bolts in his legs. While walking through the tunnel, one of the bolts became separated and he passed out from the extreme pain But Mujahideen carried him out in this condition, got him out of the tunnel and transported him away by car.