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Illustration by Security Management

300 Prisoners at Large After Afghan Jail Siege

Hundreds of prisoners escaped during an Islamic State siege of a prison in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, earlier this week. At least 29 people were killed and more than 50 wounded when the militants—by current estimates, 30 fighters—attacked the prison Sunday evening and clashed with security forces, Reuters reported. After an 18-hour operation, Afghan security forces retook the prison.

More than 300 prisoners are now at large, according to a spokesperson for the governor of Nangarhar province. Of the 1,793 prisoners in the facility—including fighters with links to the Islamic State and the Taliban—more than 1,000 tried to escape and had been recaptured.

A July United Nations report estimated there are around 2,200 Islamic State fighters still in Afghanistan and while the group has lost territory and leaders, it remains capable of carrying out high-profile attacks.

Earlier this year, an Islamic State propaganda video encouraged followers to turn to different destructive acts such as crop burnings and arson. The terror group has also encouraged people to plan attacks while governments are focused on addressing the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to an August article from Security Management, foreign fighters at large could continue to pose a long-term threat to nations and people worldwide. According to a different UN report, up to two-thirds of the 40,000 aspirants who joined the ISIS caliphate are still alive. In addition, despite its loss of territory, the group retains a large pool of resources—estimated between $50 million and $300 million by the UN.

“ISIS foreign terrorist fighters, adherents, and dependents will continue to pose a terrorist threat over the short-, medium-, and long-term on a scale many times greater than was the case with al Qaeda from 2002 onwards, based on the much greater numbers involved,” the UN team found.