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Hundreds More Captives Freed As Part Of Afghanistan-Taliban Prisoner Swap

31 May 2020 Radio Free Europe

The Afghan government and the Taliban have released more captives as part of a major prisoner swap ahead of formal peace talks aimed at ending the 18-year war.

The prisoner exchange is part of a U.S.-Taliban agreement signed in February that called on the Afghan government to release up to 5,000 Taliban prisoners and for the militants to free around 1,000 government captives as a confidence-building measure ahead of formal peace talks.

"The Government has released 710 Taliban prisoners from Pul-e Charkhi, Parwan and other prisons in the provinces since yesterday," National Security Council spokesman Javid Faisal tweeted late on May 30.

The releases bring to around 2,700 the total number of prisoners freed by Kabul since the U.S.-Taliban agreement was signed.

Suhail Shaheen, the spokesman of the Taliban's political office in Qatar, said on Twitter on May 30 that the militants released 73 members of the Afghan security forces in the provinces of Balkh, Kunduz, Logar, Paktia, Khost, and Paktika.

He said that the Taliban had so far released 420 government prisoners.

The prisoner releases come amid new momentum in the peace process that was on the verge of collapse following intensifying militant attacks.

In a surprise move, the Taliban announced a May 24-26 cease-fire to coincide with the Eid al-Fitr Islamic holiday.

During the cease-fire, Afghan authorities released some 1,000 Taliban prisoners -- part of a pledge by the government to free up to 2,000 militants in response to the Taliban's cease-fire move.

The developments have raised prospects of an extended cessation of hostilities and the long-delayed launch of direct talks between the government and militants over a permanent cease-fire and a future power-sharing agreement.

Since the truce ended, the militants have observed an unofficial reduction of violence, despite staging several deadly attacks on government forces.

A Taliban delegation arrived in Kabul on May 28 for talks over the prisoner swap.

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Original Link: https://www.rferl.org/a/hundreds-more-captives-freed-as-part-of-afghanistan-taliban-prisoner-swap/30644298.html

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