Twelve prisoners with links to the Taliban walked out of Kandahar's Sarposa prison after forging a letter from the attorney general ordering their release.
It was the third time that prisoners had escaped from their cells in southern Afghanistan's main jail, and the most audaciously simple. The names of the men were simply added to a list of 18 others genuinely due for release, a police spokesman said of Saturday's escape.
"They were jailed for crimes including planting IEDs [improvised explosive devices], having links with the Taliban, and some of them were Taliban fighters," said Ahmad Zia Durrani, spokesman for the chief of police. "Eighteen Taliban who had served their sentences were released according to the law, but the other 12 had not done their time."
Two of the men, who Durrani said were the most senior, have since been recaptured. But the other 10 were on the run, possibly along with the Sarposa jail's head of logistics. "He is under investigation and has disappeared," said Parwez Najib, chief of staff to the Kandahar provincial governor. "He could be one of the reasons they were released."
Kandahar is the birthplace of the Taliban, and the group still has a strong presence in villages across the province.
Sarposa prison is packed with men jailed for links to the insurgency or for playing an active role in fighting the government, or simply under suspicion and awaiting trial in a creaking and badly organised judicial system.
In 2008 insurgents drove a suicide truck bomb into the prison's wall, then burst inside to fight the guards while nearly 900 inmates fled. The attack left the jail almost empty, and nearly half of those who escaped were Taliban.
The governor of Kandahar has ordered an investigation into the latest escape.