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Taliban says it released 20 more Afghan government prisoners

Taliban Prisoners (MOECKLI, Olivier/WikiCommons)

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

The Taliban says it has released a second group of Afghan security forces it has been holding captive as part of a delayed swap considered key to paving the way for peace talks between the two sides.

Suhail Shaheen, the spokesman for the Taliban’s political office in Qatar, said on Twitter late on April 16 that 20 Afghan soldiers and police officers were set free in the eastern province of Laghman earlier in the day.

Another Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, said in a tweet on April 16 that the prisoners were handed over to representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

Neither the ICRC nor the Afghan government have confirmed the release.

If confirmed, it would bring the total number of prisoners released by the militants to 40.

The Taliban released 20 Afghan troops in the southern province of Kandahar on April 12.

The Kabul government has released a total of 300 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.

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.