Taleban set to release 20 prisoners in major breakthrough with Afghanistan govt

KABUL (AFP) – The Taleban is set to release 20 prisoners in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar, the group’s spokesman said on Sunday (April 12), in what appeared to be a major breakthrough after the insurgents walked out of talks with the government last week.

“Today, 20 prisoners of the Kabul administration will be released,” Taleban spokesman Suhail Shaheen said on Twitter, adding that the group would be handed over to representatives of the Red Cross in Kandahar.

The announcement follows a string of releases of Taleban prisoners by the Afghan government and came after the head of United States and Nato forces in Afghanistan met with insurgent leaders to discuss a reduction in violence in the war-weary country.

Washington signed a key deal with the Taleban in February that promised the withdrawal of US and foreign troops from Afghanistan by next summer, provided the militants start talks with Kabul and adhere to other guarantees.

The deal requires the Afghan government – which was not a signatory to the accord – to free up to 5,000 Taleban prisoners, and for the militants to release 1,000 pro-government captives in return.

A small Taleban team met the government to discuss a comprehensive prisoner swap last week, but walked out of the talks soon after officials offered a piecemeal release of the prisoners.

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