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Iran Press TV

Taliban say will free Afghan government inmates before Eid al-Adha

Iran Press TV

Thursday, 30 July 2020 9:03 AM

The Taliban militant group says it will release the remaining Afghan government prisoners before Eid al-Adha (the Feast of Sacrifice) as a "goodwill gesture."

Suhail Shaheen, a spokesman for the Taliban's office in Qatar, said in a statement on Twitter on Thursday that the militant group had decided to release the 1,000 prisoners before Eid al-Adha, which marks the culmination of the annual Hajj pilgrimage.

Shaheen called on the Afghan government to complete the release of the 5,000 Taliban prisoners that has been underway in a gradual format as part of a prisoner swap between the two sides.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said on Tuesday that his government would soon complete the release of the 5,000 Taliban prisoners in order to demonstrate its commitment to peace.

He also said negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban militant group were expected to begin "in a week's time," following the completion of the prisoner exchange.

The prisoner swap has been an Afghan government obligation under a deal between the United States and the Taliban that was struck in February. The Afghan government, which was not a signatory to the accord, was required to release up to 5,000 Taliban prisoners. The militants, for their part, were obliged to free 1,000 government captives.

The exchange has been regarded as a first step toward broader talks between the government and the militants. Its implementation had faced hurdles since the deal was signed.

The deal envisages a complete withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan, and the Taliban pledged not to attack American and other foreign forces. They made no such pledge in relation to the Afghan government and people.

The Taliban on Tuesday declared a three-day ceasefire for the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, starting Friday. Kabul welcomed the announcement with a note of caution.

The truce announcement has been welcomed by the public and officials in Afghanistan and they have called for a lasting ceasefire in the war-ravaged country.

The militants declared a similar three-day ceasefire at the end of the holy fasting month of Ramadan in May. That truce prompted widespread relief across Afghanistan, but it was short-lived, with the militants resuming deadly attacks straight afterwards.

Official data shows that bombings and other assaults by the Taliban have surged 70 percent since the militant group signed the deal with the United States.

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