Fighters have attacked a prison compound in the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad, and a battle with security forces is under way, according to officials, in an attack claimed by the ISIL (ISIS) group that left at least three people killed and 20 others wounded.
The complex assault on Sunday began with a suicide bomber detonating a car laden with explosives near the entrance of the government-run facility, followed by multiple attackers opening fire on security guards.
Afghan police and special forces were deployed to the scene and an hours-long gun battle with the assailants ensued.
Afghan officials said at least three people were killed, but there were fears the death toll could rise.
Speaking to Al Jazeera, Bilal Sarwary, a freelance journalist in Kabul, said he was told by an inmate that a number of prisoners were also wounded.
“Several security towers were being controlled by the militants,” Sarwary added. “It was still not clear how the group got so many weapons and ammunition in the heart of Jalalabad.”
There were also reports of dozens of prisoners escaping from the facility.
A provincial council member in Jalalabad said the attackers detonated a car laden with explosives outside the government-run prison [Al Jazeera]
ISIL claimed responsibility for the attack, according to the armed group’s propaganda arm, Amaq.
Earlier, a Taliban spokesperson said on Twitter that the group was not involved in the attack, which came on the final day of a rare truce between it and the Afghan government to mark the Eid al-Adha Muslim holiday.
The prison attack came a day after the Afghan intelligence agency said a senior ISIL commander was killed by Afghan special forces near Jalalabad, the capital of Nangarhar province.
Nangarhar has been hit by regular attacks, several of them claimed by ISIL.
On May 12, a suicide bomber killed 32 mourners at a funeral for a police commander in the province, in one of the deadliest attacks this year also claimed by ISIL.
A United Nations report last month estimated there are around 2,200 ISIL members in Afghanistan, and that while the group is in “territorial retreat” and its leadership has been depleted, it “remains capable of carrying out high-profile attacks in various parts of the country, including Kabul”.
Efforts to get peace talks under way between the Taliban and the Kabul government have stalled after the Taliban and the United States signed an agreement in February, touted as the deal to end Washington’s longest war.
The agreement struck in Qatar’s capital, Doha, lays out plans for the withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan in exchange for security guarantees from the Taliban.
Last week, a UN report said almost 1,300 civilians, including hundreds of children, were killed in Afghanistan in the first six months of the year, a 13 percent drop compared with the same period in 2019.
The report credited the drop in part to the reduction of operations by international forces in support of Afghan government forces and also to a decrease in the number of attacks by ISIL.