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Afghanistan releases another 71 Taliban prisoners in step toward peace talks

Taliban Prisoners (MOECKLI, Olivier/WikiCommons)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

Afghanistan says it has released another 71 Taliban prisoners in a further step toward bringing the two sides together to negotiate a peace settlement.

Javed Faisal, a spokesman for the National Security Council, said in a tweet that detainees had been released from seven prisons in the Nangarhar, Laghman, Kunar, Nuristan, Faryab, Uruzgan, and Baghlan provinces.

The Western-backed government in Kabul has released a total of 432 Taliban inmates since April 8.

A pact signed by the United States and the Taliban on February 29 calls for the Afghan government to release 5,000 Taliban fighters as a confidence-building measure ahead of formal peace talks aimed at ending the 18-year conflict in Afghanistan.

The Taliban has vowed to release some 1,000 Afghan government troops and civilian workers it is holding.

Since April 12, the militants have released 60 Afghan security and defense personnel.

The prisoner swap was scheduled to be completed by March 10, before the start of intra-Afghan peace talks, but it has been delayed by disputes between the sides.

Meanwhile, fighting has continued across Afghanistan since the U.S.-Taliban deal was inked in Doha, Qatar.

Late on April 21, 11 members of the Afghan security forces were killed after Taliban militants attacked their checkpoints in three districts of the northern province of Sar-e-Pul, according to the spokesman for the provincial governor.

Eight security force members were also reported killed in a Taliban assault on a checkpoint in the eastern Logar Province.

The spokesman, Zabihullah Amani, told RFE/RL that another 19 were wounded.