KABUL: Afghan authorities said on Wednesday they will not release hundreds of Taliban captives deemed “too dangerous” despite planned peace talks that hinge on the prisoner exchange.
Violence, meanwhile, continued to rack the war-torn country as a suicide bomber killed three security personnel near the governor’s residence and police headquarters in the province of Kandahar.
Under the terms of a US-Taliban deal, Kabul pledged to free some 5,000 Taliban prisoners in a swap that would see the insurgents release around 1,000 Afghan security force captives.
But National Security Council (NSC) spokesman Javid Faisal said that 600 prisoners the Taliban asked to be freed still had “serious criminal cases” against them.
Taliban claim responsibility for a deadly attack near a provincial governor’s residence and police headquarters
They include people charged with murder, highway robbery and even sodomy, as well as hundreds of foreign fighters, another government official said on condition of anonymity.
“They are too dangerous to be released,” the official said.
The Taliban on Wednesday accused the government of fabricating criminal cases against the prisoners. “If they continue to create more problems in this regard, then it shows they do not want issues to be solved through reasonable ways,” spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said.
But NSC spokesman Faisal insisted the government was committed to the talks. “We are ready for peace and will release the remaining prisoners… as per the agreement — just not these hundreds of prisoners who have serious criminal cases in the courts,” he said.
Both sides have pledged to hold direct talks aimed at ending the decades-old conflict in Afghanistan after completing the exchange.
The government has already freed more than 4,000 Taliban fighters, while the insurgents have completed around two-thirds of their releases.
Earlier this week a top Afghan official said it was up to the authorities to decide who should be released.
“We don’t expect the Taliban to tell us which inmates to be released,” said Sediq Sediqqi, spokesman for President Ashraf Ghani.
A Taliban suicide bomber detonated an explosive-packed military vehicle on the approach to the provincial governor’s residence and police headquarters in Kandahar, killing at least three people.
“At around 4 am, a suicide bomber driving a large (Afghan security force) truck came under fire from security forces before reaching his goal, but detonated explosives near police headquarters and the governor’s residential complex,” the governor’s spokesman, Bahir Ahmad Ahamdi, said.
Three members of the security forces were killed and 14 people wounded, including civilians, in the attack in the Sha Wali Kot district of Kandahar, he said, and the police headquarters and governor’s compound suffered severe damage.
The Taliban claimed responsibility, saying in a statement that the police headquarters had been used as a military hub for security force operations against the Islamist insurgents.
Diplomats say the resurgence of attacks is heightening mistrust just as the Afghan government and Taliban are supposed to enter peace negotiations and as the United States withdraws forces under a deal with the Taliban struck in February.
On Tuesday, a car bomb blast in the eastern province of Nangarhar killed a local police commander and three other people, and wounded 11, according to the provincial governor’s spokesman. There was no claim of responsibility for the attack.
An explosion in Kabul on Tuesday injured two civilians and security forces said they had thwarted large attacks in and around the capital.
Disagreement over a release of prisoners — with Kabul refusing to free 600 of the 5,000 Taliban it holds — is proving to be one of the last major hurdles to the start of full peace negotiations in the Qatari capital Doha.
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