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Prominent Taliban Militant Appears In Video After Escape

Interview With Prominent Taliban Militant After His Escape
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DERA ISMAIL KHAN, Pakistan -- A prominent Pakistani Taliban fighter has appeared in a video following his recent escape from prison.

Adnan Rashid escaped from jail in the northwestern town of Bannu along with some 400 other inmates during a Taliban attack on April 15.

Rashid is a former technician with the Pakistan Air Force who was sentenced to death in 2005 for being involved in a 2003 assassination attempt on former President Pervez Musharraf.

In the 22-second video, which was sent by the Taliban to RFE/RL’s correspondent in Dera Ismail Khan, a long-haired, bearded Rashid is sitting in the front seat of a car, smiling and answering questions posed by an unseen person.

Speaking in Pashto, Rashid says he is "fine" and that he has spent the last eight years and four months in prison.

In the exchange, Rashid confirms that he escaped when the prison was overrun on April 15, adding, "Thank God." He says he was sentenced to death for involvement in an attempt on Musharraf's life.

The Pakistani newspaper "Dawn" reported that Rashid insisted that he was innocent of the charges while in prison.

Many Unanswered Questions

The attack on the jail was carried out by militants armed with guns, grenades, and heavy weapons. Many of the nearly 400 prisoners who escaped were under death sentences.

In the aftermath, Pakistani officials suggested to RFE/RL that securing Rashid’s freedom was the driving motivation behind the attack.

An officer at the central jail who requested anonymity told "The Express Tribune" that militants who entered the jail demanded to know where Rashid's cell was.

A guard at the Bannu facility, Mer Laiq Khan, said the first attackers arrived "in two or three vehicles" and responded to gunfire from guards with hand grenades and a rocket launcher. The attackers surrounded the entire prison, he said.

Taliban spokesman Asim Mehsood told RFE/RL that the Taliban was responsible for the attack and that some 150 suicide bombers had participated.

According to the information minister of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province, Mia Iftikhar Hussain, investigators are looking into the possibility that the attackers had help from Pakistani officials.

"We are looking into the matter and investigating whether government officials were involved, why the security officials on duty could not handle the attackers, or why additional forces could not reach the prison in time," Hussain told RFE/RL. "These are all questions that will take time to answer."

Written by Heather Maher based on reporting by RFE/RL's Radio Mashaal

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