Taliban release first group of government prisoners

The Taliban have reportedly released 20 prisoners of Afghan government. The news comes after the government released 300 prisoners of the militant group in three separate groups in line with Ghani’s phased release plan detailed in a decree issued on March 11.

A prisoner swap is part of the US-Taliban peace deal signed on February 29.

Following a tweet posted by Suhail Shaheen, spokesman for Taliban’s political office in Doha, about release of the Afghan government prisoners, the media reported late today, April 12 that 20 prisoners of the government have been handed over by the militant group to the International Committee of the Red Cross in Kandahar. “Today, 20 prisoners of the Kabul Administration will be released by the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan and handed over to ICRC in Kandahar,” Mr. Shaheen said on twitter around 12:00 PM, today’s noon.

The tweet came hours after Office of the National Security Council (ONSC) issued photos from a third group of the Taliban prisoners released by the government. Though the Taliban repeatedly insisted on releasing the group’s prisoners based on a list they had handed over to the US, the ONSC has said that the militants have been released based on Ghani’s decree. According to Ghani’s decree, the Taliban prisoners must be released considering their health condition, age, and the remaining imprisonment period.

Moreover, the militant group has confirmed release of the prisoners after they walked out of talks over the swap plan with the Afghan government. Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesperson of the militant group, had previously rejected the released prisoners as “unknown detainees” who were not Taliban members. Both spokespersons of the militant group, Mujahid and Shaheen, had accused the Afghan government and the US of violating the US-Taliban peace deal.

Although the prisoner swap seems to have started between the warring parties, the violence have apparently intensified across the country, particularly, by the Taliban as indicated repetitively by US and the government officials.

Spokesperson for the ONSC, Javid Faisal, said on twitter earlier today, April 12 that the Taliban have killed at least 30 civilians and wounded two others across nine provinces in the last seven days.

Issuing a statement on Saturday, April 11, the Ministry of Defense said that the Taliban shadow governor for Maidan Wardak province, Wali Jan, was killed in an airstrike conducted by Afghan air force in Sayedabad district of the province.

The Taliban, however, have rejected the news.