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Iran Press TV

Western states back Kabul's refusal to free dangerous Taliban prisoners: Report

Iran Press TV

Friday, 19 June 2020 2:41 PM

Western countries back the Afghan government's refusal of a demand by the Taliban militant group to release those of its members who have been imprisoned for involvement in violent attacks as a condition to start intra-Afghan dialog, a report says.

The prisoner swap is part of a deal between the Taliban and the United States, which was signed in the Qatari capital, Doha, on February 29, and under which the militant group agreed to halt attacks on international forces in return for the US military's phased withdrawal from Afghanistan.

The Afghan government, which was not a signatory to the US-Taliban accord, was required to release up to 5,000 Taliban prisoners. The militants, for their part, were obliged to free 1,000 government captives.

While the Afghan government has been releasing Taliban prisoners, it has balked at releasing some of the members tied to deadly attacks.

A Reuters report on Thursday cited European diplomats as saying anonymously that European countries backed that refusal.

"There are some dangerous Taliban fighters named in the list, and releasing them is literally crossing a red line," a senior European diplomat told Reuters. "Some NATO members find it extremely uncomfortable to support the release of Taliban prisoners who were behind large-scale suicide attacks on minority groups and on expats."

Kabul has already released around 3,000 prisoners under the agreement. The Taliban has also freed hundreds of captives.

According to the sources, some prisoners accused of involvement in large-scale attacks – such as the 2017 truck bombing near Germany's Embassy in Kabul, which killed more than 150 people – are among those that the militant group wants released.

The Taliban has threatened to scrap the deal with the US if the members that it wants are not released.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid on Thursday denied that dangerous militants were on the group's list, insisting that all 5,000 be released so talks could start.

"There are no such people... these are just excuses to create barriers against the peace process," he said.

One Afghan security source and one diplomatic source also told Reuters that the United States, too, had expressed reservations about releasing some of the group's members that NATO and the Afghan government were reluctant to set free.

A US State Department spokesperson said the US wanted peace talks to start as soon as possible.

"The United States continues to be encouraged by the great progress on prisoners release by both sides. We support additional releases by both sides to get the issue off the table," the spokesperson said in an emailed statement to Reuters.

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