Taliban warns of revenge if members die of COVID-19 in Afghan prisons

Kabul, Apr 29 (efe-epa).- The Taliban warned the Afghan government on Wednesday they would hold the authorities responsible if their members lost their lives to COVID-19 infections while under imprisonment, and avenge their deaths.

The warning comes a day after the authorities in Kabul’s Pul-e-Charkhi prison revealed that 46 inmates tested positive for the novel coronavirus after rapid tests were conducted.

Pul-e-Charkhi is one of the two largest prisons in the country and many Taliban prisoners are being held there.

“If the prisoners of the Islamic Emirate (as the Taliban group calls itself) are lost, each one will be asked about and revenge taken,” the insurgents said in a statement.

The Taliban expressed “deep concern” about conditions inside Afghan jails, underlining that it would “prove catastrophic” if the infections spread inside.

Moreover, it blamed the government in Kabul for creating problems in releasing 5,000 Taliban prisoners as agreed with the United States in a peace deal signed in the Qatari capital of Doha on Feb.29.

The peace deal included a prisoner swap agreement between the Taliban and the Afghan forces, which would serve as a precursor to the commencement of intra-Afghan talks to usher in peace in the country after nearly 20 years.

However, the process was affected by a disagreement between the insurgents and the government, leading to the Taliban negotiating team pulling out of the prisoner exchange talks earlier this month.

In this regard, the insurgent group criticized the US for not showing enough urgency in the implementation of the Doha agreement, and allowing the process to go off-track.

“We could have made major progress in all facets including the release of prisoners, and (the) detainees would have been saved from this danger,” said the Taliban.

However, both sides have unilaterally released some prisoners in an attempt to adhere to the Doha agreement, while violence continued unabated in the country.

The government has so far released 550 Taliban inmates in batches, whereas the Taliban has released 60 prisoners, citing COVID-19 as one of the reasons for the release.

According to official figures, there are around 11,000 Taliban inmates among the tens of thousands people imprisoned in government jails.

The authorities have started to release some prisoners due to overcrowding and lack of appropriate facilities to implement precautionary measures to check the spread of the coronavirus inside jails.

So far, 6,000 inmates have been released as a part of a process to release 22,000 prisoners from different prisons across the country, in line with two separate decrees signed by President Ashraf Ghani.

However, members of the Taliban have not been included among these 22,000 prisoners.

Afghanistan has so far registered a total of 1,939 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 60 deaths.

The government has warned that the number of infections are on the rise, with 110 cases detected in the last 24 hours. EFE-EPA


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