Afghan govt releases another 900 Taliban inmates (Ld)

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Kabul, May 26 (IANS) The Afghan government on Tuesday released another batch of 900 Taliban inmates in the latest move to further advance the intra-Afghan peace talks with the militant group, a spokesperson for the Office of the National Security Council confirmed.

“The government released 900 Taliban prisoners today to further advance peace efforts, including an extended ceasefire and the immediate start of intra-Afghan peace talks,” spokesman Javid Faisal tweeted.

The move came after Taliban militants announced a three-day ceasefire during Eid al-Fitr festival, which started on from Sunday, reports Xinhua news agency.

Taliban militants have reportedly agreed to extend the ceasefire for another four days or more.

On Monday, the second day of the festival, the government released 100 Taliban from Bagram prison in eastern Parwan province.

Around 1,100 Taliban prisoners have been released in smaller groups in the past few weeks, but Tuesday batch was the biggest to be released at once.

In response to the government’s gesture, Suhail Shaheen, a spokesman for the Taliban’s political office in Qatar, said it was a good step but added that the process of releasing 5,000 prisoners should be completed to create a suitable environment for confidence building.

On March 11, President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani issued a decree to release 5,000 Taliban inmates on parole and Taliban agreed to release 1,000 soldiers but the exchange of prisoners was repeatedly delayed.

As of May 10, some 1,000 Taliban fighters and 200 Afghan government soldiers had been freed by the two sides, but the exchange process had been suspended over some disputes.

The release of up to 5,000 Taliban prisoners was included as part of the US-Taliban deal signed in Doha on February 29.

However, the Afghan government was not a signatory of the deal.

–IANS

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