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Afghanistan to Free 900 More Taliban Prisoners

Afghanistan to Free 900 More Taliban Prisoners

Wednesday, 27 May, 2020 - 09:00
A number of Taliban released prisoners outside Kabul, AFP
Kabul - Asharq Al-Awsat

The Afghan government said it was in the process of freeing 900 Taliban members from prison on Tuesday, the biggest such release yet, and urged the insurgent group to extend a three-day ceasefire set to end at midnight.

The pause in fighting — which came into effect Sunday to mark the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr — was, for the most part, holding across the country, officials said.

The government responded to the Taliban’s three-day ceasefire offer Sunday by announcing plans to release up to 2,000 insurgent prisoners.

On Monday they freed 100, and will release another 900, the government said — the biggest group of Taliban prisoners to be freed so far.

The exact number could vary subject to legal procedures, National Security Council spokesperson Javid Faisal told AFP.

The National Security Council, in a statement on Twitter, said the release of prisoners was to “advance the cause of peace, including the continuation of the bilateral ceasefire and the immediate start of direct negotiations”.

The ceasefire, only the second of its kind in the 19-year-old conflict, has raised hopes of an extended truce that could pave the way for long-awaited peace talks between the Taliban and Afghan government.

“Extend the ceasefire. Save lives,” Shaharzad Akbar, head of Afghan Human Rights Commission, said on Twitter.

“End the violence so that we can all focus on making services available to the most vulnerable across the country, on expanding access to human rights, so that we have space to breathe.”

A Taliban source indicated the group could extend the ceasefire by seven days if the government speeds up the release of prisoners.

Another insurgent source said militants plan to release about 200 Afghan security force members they hold.

The Taliban have insisted that they want some 5,000 members held by the government released as agreed in a deal with the United States.

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