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Monday 10 August 2020

Taliban Prisoners to Be Released


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KABUL (Reuters) — The Afghan government agreed on Sunday to release 400 “hard-core” Taliban prisoners, paving the way for peace talks aimed at ending almost two decades of war.

The insurgent group welcomed the move and said it was ready to begin talks within 10 days of the release. The Taliban militant had demanded the release of the 400, the last batch among 5,000 prisoners to be freed, as a condition to join peace talks. With the release, the Afghan government will fulfil its pledge to release 5,000 Taliban prisoners. Talks between the government and the Taliban will start in Doha this week, Western diplomats said. Ghani appealed to the hardline Islamist group to pledge to a complete ceasefire ahead of talks.

Under pressure from U.S. President Donald Trump for a deal allowing him to bring home American troops, Afghan grand assembly, or Loya Jirga, on Sunday approved the release. Minutes later, President Ashraf Ghani announced, “Today, I will sign the release order of these 400 prisoners.”

Among the 400 are Taliban members accused of major attacks against civilians and foreigners, including a 2017 truck bombing near the German embassy in Kabul that killed more than 150 people — the deadliest attack in the 19-year insurgency.

Taliban and official sources have told Reuters the group includes members of the militant Haqqani network, which has ties to the Taliban.

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