Conflicts & War

Afghan government says over 600 soldiers missing from Taliban custody

Kabul, May 11 (efe-epa).- The Afghan government alleged on Monday that at least 610 members of its security forces detained by the Taliban, who were supposed to be in the rebels’ prisons, had gone missing and expressed concern for their lives.

The spokesperson for the National Security Council – the official body handling a prisoner swap with the Taliban – Javid Faisal, said in a press conference in Kabul that out of a list of 1,000 prisoners which the government had given to the rebels, more than half were missing

“We ask Taliban to clarify where are these 610 persons who had been detained by them, whether they have killed them, kept them in secret locations or sold them (…), whatever happened to them, they have to share information” Faisal said.

“If these persons had been martyred (by Taliban, after detention), then this is a war crime.”

The allegation comes amid an unofficial prisoner release process being carried out by both sides, despite failed negotiations, as part of an agreement between the Taliban and the United States that included the swapping of 5000 Taliban prisoners for 1,000 Afghan security personnel imprisoned by the rebels..

The government has so far released 1,000 Taliban prisoners, and Faisal alleged that the rebels had failed to keep up their part of the bargain – of releasing one government prisoner in exchange for five of their fighters – as they had released just 171 prisoners, out of which only 105 were members of the security forces.

“Afghan government is committed to releasing Taliban prisoners (5 Talibans for 1 government prisoner) but if the Taliban don’t have prisoners or they have conducted illegal behavior with prisoners and the prisoners are lost (…) then we are also not obliged to go ahead (…) as per the agreement,” the spokesperson warned.

However, a Taliban spokesperson responded by saying the group had additionally released 53 government prisoners on Sunday and Monday.

“They were given clothes and Afs: (Afghanis) 5000 (around $65) for transportation fare,” Suhail Shaheen tweeted

The prisoner swap, which has been postponed several times, is an important step of the historic Taliban-US peace agreement – which is expected to pave the way for the withdrawal of US troops from the country – and a prerequisite to intra-Afghan negotiations.

Faisal said that the government was prepared to hold direct talks with the rebels but no date had been decided so far as the Taliban had “failed to come forward.”

The other major insurgent group in the country, the Islamic State, suffered a setback on Monday as the government claimed to have captured its regional chief along with two key commanders.

“The National Directorate of Security, as part of its comprehensive and new plan for the detention or elimination of the leaders of the regional or global terrorist groups, (…) arrested Ziaul Haq, known as Shaikh Abu Omer Khurasani, leader of the Daesh (IS) terrorist group for South Asia and Far East” the country’s main spy agency said in a statement without providing further details about the exact date and location of the operation. EFE-EPA

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