Afghanistan to Free 900 More Taliban Prisoners

Afghanistan to Free 900 More Taliban Prisoners

TEHRAN (Tasnim) – Afghan authorities plan to release 900 more Taliban prisoners Tuesday, as calls grew for the group to extend a ceasefire on its third and final day.

The pause in fighting -- which came into effect Sunday to mark the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr -- was, for the most part, holding across the country, officials said, AFP reported.

The government responded to the Taliban's three-day ceasefire offer Sunday by announcing plans to release up to 2,000 Taliban prisoners.

On Monday they freed 100, and will release another 900, the government said -- the biggest group of Taliban prisoners to be freed so far.

The exact number could vary subject to legal procedures, National Security Council spokesman Javid Faisal said.

The National Security Council, in a statement on Twitter, said the release of prisoners was to "advance the cause of peace, including the continuation of the bilateral ceasefire and the immediate start of direct negotiations".

The ceasefire, only the second of its kind in the 19-year-old conflict, has raised hopes of an extended truce that could pave the way for long-awaited peace talks between the Taliban and Afghan government.

"Extend the ceasefire. Save lives," Shaharzad Akbar, head of Afghan Human Rights Commission, said on Twitter.

A Taliban source indicated the group could extend the ceasefire by seven days if the government speeds up the release of prisoners.

Another Taliban source said it plans to release about 200 Afghan security force members they hold.

The Taliban have insisted that they want some 5,000 members held by the government released as agreed in a deal with the United States.

The US-Taliban deal signed in February paves the way for all foreign forces to leave the country by next year.

It also stipulates that the Afghan government would release up to 5,000 Taliban prisoners and the Taliban would free about 1,000 national security personnel.

Prior to this week's releases, Kabul had already freed about 1,000 Taliban inmates, while the group had let go about 300 Afghan security forces captives.

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