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IS Attack on Afghan Prison Continues   08/03 06:02

   An Islamic State group attack on a prison in eastern Afghanistan holding 
hundreds of its members raged on Monday after killing at least 21 people in 
fighting overnight, a local official said.

   JALALABAD, Afghanistan (AP) -- An Islamic State group attack on a prison in 
eastern Afghanistan holding hundreds of its members raged on Monday after 
killing at least 21 people in fighting overnight, a local official said.

   Another 43 people have been wounded in the assault that began late Sunday 
when an Islamic State suicide bomber slammed his explosive-laden vehicle into 
the Jalalabad prison's entrance.

   Militants then opened fire on security forces at the prison in the capital 
of Nangarhar province, some 115 kilometers (70 miles) east of Kabul.

   Three attackers have been killed so far but the battle continued Monday with 
sporadic gunfire still coming from the prison grounds and nearby residential 
compound, said Attaullah Khogyani, a spokesman for the governor of Nangarhar 
province.

   The dead included civilians, prisoners, guards and Afghan security forces, 
Khogyani said.

   Police believe several militants slipped away into a nearby residential 
complex, making it more difficult to flush them out, authorities said. Khogyani 
said security personnel were moving cautiously to avoid civilian casualties.

   Afghan Security and Defense Force personnel in armored vehicles surrounded 
the prison in the middle of Jalalabad, just 700 meters (half a mile) from the 
governor's office. Soldiers were still evacuating residents from the area on 
Monday as sporadic gunshots rang out.

   The Islamic State group's affiliate in Afghanistan, known as IS in Khorasan 
province, has claimed responsibility for the attack. The affiliate is 
headquartered in Nangarhar province.

   The motive of the attack wasn't immediately clear. However, some prisoners 
have escaped during the fighting, said another provincial official, who spoke 
on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to journalists.

   The prison houses about 1,500 inmates, of which several hundred are believed 
to be Islamic State members. Khyogyani said about 1,000 prisoners who earlier 
escaped had been found by security forces across the city. It wasn't 
immediately clear if any prisoners were still at large.

   The attack comes a day after authorities said Afghan special forces killed a 
senior Islamic State commander near Jalalabad.

   While the Islamic State group has seen its so-called caliphate stretching 
across Iraq and Syria eliminated after a yearslong campaign, the group has 
continued fighting in Afghanistan. The extremists also have battled the Taliban 
in the country, whom the U.S. overthrew following the 2001 American-led 
invasion after the Sept. 11 attacks.

   The Taliban's political spokesman, Suhail Shaheen, told The Associated Press 
that his group was not involved in the Jalalabad attack. The U.S. struck a 
peace deal with the Taliban in February. A second, crucial round of 
negotiations between the Taliban and the political leadership in Kabul has yet 
to start. Still, Washington and NATO already have begun withdrawing troops in 
line with the deal.

   "We have a cease-fire and are not involved in any of these attacks anywhere 
in the country," he said.

   The Taliban declared a three-day cease-fire starting Friday for the major 
Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha. The cease-fire expired at 12 a.m. Monday though 
it wasn't immediately clear if it would be extended as the U.S. pushes for an 
early start to intra-Afghan negotiations that have repeatedly been delayed 
since Washington signed a peace deal with the Taliban in February.

   The Taliban also had denied being involved in a suicide bombing in eastern 
Logar province late Thursday that killed at least nine people and wounded 40.

   Afghanistan has seen a recent spike in violence, with most attacks claimed 
by the local Islamic State group affiliate.

 
 
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