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Monday, 7 January 2013

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Afghans released from jail in peace push

AFGHANISTAN: With tears streaming down their faces, scores of suspected Afghan militants embraced waiting relatives and walked to freedom -- just one sign of increasing attempts at reconciliation after 11 years of war.

About 80 men, all wearing white skull caps, were released from jail on Friday at a ceremony inside Pul-e-Charkhi, Afghanistan’s largest prison located on dusty flatlands east of the capital Kabul.

Most had been detained by US-led foreign troops hunting down Taliban militants and were held at Bagram airfield, where the international force (ISAF) is based, before being transferred into Afghan custody.

President Hamid Karzai, who will hold talks with President Barack Obama in Washington this week, has insisted all prisoners are handed over as Afghanistan takes over security ahead of the pull-out of foreign troops in 2014.

But US officials have often expressed fears that some detainees are released only to return immediately to the battlefield.

“It has been 20 months I spent in jail,” one prisoner in his 30s told reporters, declining to give his name. “I was taken in (the southern city of) Kandahar. I don’t know why I was arrested but I was taken by foreign troops.” He said he had been treated well, but another man said he had been arrested in the northern province of Sari Pol and then abused by Afghanistan’s intelligence agency, the National Directorate of Security (NDS).

AFP

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