Kabul: What came as a shock to the Afghanistan authorities, at least 500 Taliban prisoners escaped from Kandahar prison in southern Afghanistan by digging a hundred metres long tunnel on Monday, officials said.

The Taliban has claimed responsibility of the jail break and said that all of those who escaped were members of the militant organisation.

"A tunnel hundreds of metres long was dug from the south of the prison into the prison and 476 political prisoners escaped last night," said prison director General Ghulam Dastageer Mayar.

The acting police chief of Kandahar, Shair Shah Yousufzai, also confirmed the escape, saying: "Last night some political prisoners broke out of the prison and have escaped."

Taliban spokesman Yousuf Ahmadi said the militant Islamists were responsible for the mass break-out.

"Prisoners dug a 360-metre-long tunnel to the south of the prison. They started getting out of the prison at 11:00 pm (1830 GMT) last night and by early morning today, 541 prisoners escaped the prison," he said.

The Taliban are known to exaggerate their claims in relation to incidents during the insurgency. The jail break is the second major escape in three years to hit Kandahar prison.

Agencies