Publication: Terrorism Focus Volume: 5 Issue: 3


The escape of Taliban commander Mullah Naqibullah from a National Security Directorate (NSD) prison in Kabul has raised serious questions about the efficiency and integrity of Afghanistan’s national security services. After returning to his command in Helmand Province, Mullah Naqibullah claimed that he purchased his release and those of two companions for $15,000 and was aided in his return to Helmand by NSD officials (Hashte Sobh, January 8). The NSD denies the claims, but the president’s office says it has launched an investigation (AINA TV, January 8). As Afghanistan’s national security agency, the NSD is responsible for the secure detention of militants, terrorists and political prisoners. It has been frequently criticized for human rights abuses against prisoners turned over by NATO forces. A large number of NSD agents were once members of the notorious KGB-controlled State Information Agency (KHAD).

Taliban militants have also escaped from the Communist-era Pol-e Charki, a vast and rapidly deteriorating prison complex outside Kabul. Timur Shah, a gang leader convicted of rape and murder, escaped from the prison in November 2006 only moments before his execution. The career criminal was also believed to have escaped with the aid of his jailers—three guards were later arrested (The Times, November 6, 2006). Known as the scene of thousands of executions during Communist rule, parts of the sprawling prison are often out of government control. The United States is now providing training and reconstruction assistance to build a high-security wing at Pol-e Charki, which will house a detention center for Taliban and al-Qaeda suspects transferred from Guantanamo Bay. The NSD is reported to run two prisons of its own in the Kabul area. Meanwhile in Helmand, Mullah Naqibullah says he is ready to resume operations against Coalition forces.


A London-based Arabic-language newspaper claims to have received a dossier containing recruitment details for over 600 foreign volunteers for the al-Qaeda-connected Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) (al-Hayat, January 13). According to the report, nearly half of the volunteers hailed from Saudi Arabia, while most of the rest came from the Maghreb nations of Libya, Algeria and Morocco; a handful had European citizenship. Al-Hayat claims the documents were seized by U.S. forces during a sweep of ISI positions in al-Anbar province. Most of the volunteers passed through Syria or Jordan to reach Iraq. The records not only provide the real names and noms de guerre of the militants, but also include the phone numbers of family, friends and recruiters. Occupation and skills are also recorded.

After being recruited in schools, mosques or on pilgrimage, the would-be militants apparently receive a rough reception at the transfer points along the Syrian-Iraqi border, where anything of worth is confiscated as a “donation” to the Iraqi jihad. The volunteers are also asked to indicate whether they wish to serve as “martyrdom-seekers”—i.e., suicide bombers—or “fighters.” Most of the Maghrebis choose martyrdom, while the Saudis typically opt to serve as fighters.<iframe src=’’ border=0 name=’inner_menu’ frameborder=0 width=1 height=1 style=’display:none;’></iframe>