Jailer Axed After Mass Escape

Authorities in southern Afghanistan have fired the head of a prison and other members of its staff after 41 Taliban prisoners escaped by digging a tunnel, the head of police said Monday.

The superintendent and between 25 to 30 staff were suspended Sunday because of negligence, said Brig. Mohammed Hashim, the head of police in the province of Kandahar, where the prison was located.

The fired officials were also being questioned "to determine how the Taliban escaped despite maximum security," Hashim said.

Some former Taliban commanders and the brother of former Taliban Defense Minister Mullah Ubaidullah were among the convicts who escaped Saturday. Authorities said they took about a month to dig the 30-foot tunnel.

Prison officials have said they did not realize there had been a jailbreak until they noticed the empty cells. Forty-one of the 54 Taliban housed in the prison got away, prison officials have said.

Hashim said the new jail superintendent has been asked to step up security.

Kandahar is the native town of Mullah Mohammed Omar, the head of the Taliban whose government was ousted as a result of U.S.-led operations in Afghanistan in late 2001.

The escaped convicts had been arrested by Afghan and coalition forces during the past year from different parts of the country. Hashim said they have widened hunt to recapture the men, but have not been successful so far.

"We know it is a difficult task, but we will try our best to find them," he said.