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Ashraf Ghani released three Taliban under swap deal

13 November, 2019

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Afghan President Ashraf Ghani announced release of Anas Haqqani, brother the Taliban deputy chief Siraj-ud-Haqqani, and two other leaders from the Bagram prison under a prisoners swap deal that he hoped will help in the peace process.

Taliban would also release an American and an Australian professor, who had been held hostage since August 2016.

Speaking at a news conference in Kabul Ghani announced the conditional release of Anas Haqqani, his uncle Mali Khan and Abdur Rashid. He said the Taliban leaders have been freed for the release of professors of the American University in Kabul and on the condition of progress in the peace process.

“It was a difficult decision but the decision was taken in consultation with the US and international partners,” Ghani said.

Ghani said release of the professors had been a fundamental demand in indirect talks with the Taliban. He said there are nearly 11,000 Taliban detainees with the Afghan government, who are involved in different mature of crimes.

Abdul Rashid, is the brother of Nabi Omari, a senior member of the negotiation team and was among the five Taliban leaders freed from the Guantanamo detention center in 2014. Rashid was arrested with Anas Haqqani at Bahrain airport on way back from Qatar, where they had gone to meet Taliban leaders freed from Guantanamo. They were later handed over to authorities in Afghanistan.

Mali Khan is the maternal uncle of Anas Haqqani and was captured by the US forces in Afghanistan after their invasion in 2001.

Taliban sources confirmed to Daily Times that three detainees have been freed. However, there was no official word from the Taliban spokesmen.

The sources said freed Taliban were scheduled to be flown out of Afghanistan to Qatar, where the Taliban have political headquarters, on Tuesday evening.

Taliban leadership had included Anas Haqqani in the 14-member negotiation team in February and Taliban sources say he will join the team in Qatar.

American special peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad had been working on the prisoners swap deal as part of renewed efforts for the resumption of the stalled peace process with the Taliban.

President Donald Trump had called off the process in early September following the killing of an American soldier in a Taliban-claimed attack in Kabul.

Taliban sources had earlier said that Pakistani had been mediating for the release of the foreign professors and there had been negotiations about the agreement in Qatar.

In July, Prime Minister Imran Khan said in Washington there would be “good news” about the two foreign professors. But the deal was delayed apparently due to disagreement by the Afghan government.

Afghan officials had earlier ruled out the release of Anas Haqqani, describing his release as a red line for the government and the people of Afghanistan.

Taliban and the US prisoners exchange deal is seen as a major confidence building for the resumption of the peace process.

Afghanistan National Security Adviser Hamdullah Mohib said in Kabul that Khalilzad had discussed the issue of prisoners with President Ashraf Ghani during his recent meeting.

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