U.S. slams release of 65 Taliban suspects
Kabul releases alleged militants from Afghanistan jail dubbed by President Karzai as a ‘Taliban-producing factory’
The United States on Thursday severely criticized Afghanistan’s release of 65 alleged Taliban fighters from jail, saying it was “a deeply regrettable” decision that could lead to further violence in the war-torn country.
“The Afghan government bears responsibility for the results of its decision,” Agence France-Presse quoted the U.S. embassy as saying. “We urge it to make every effort to ensure that those released do not commit new acts of violence and terror.”
On Thursday, Afghanistan released the alleged Taliban fighters from jail despite protests from the American military, which says the men could return to the battlefield to launch strikes against NATO and Afghan forces.
The release of detainees from Bagram prison is set to worsen the increasingly bitter relationship between Kabul and Washington as U.S.-led troops prepare to withdraw after 13 years fighting Islamist militants.
“The 65 prisoners were freed and walked out of the Bagram prison compound this morning,” Abdul Shukor Dadras, a member of the Afghan government review body, told AFP.
Ahead of the planned release, the U.S. military said that the men were “dangerous individuals” directly linked to attacks killing or wounding 32 NATO personnel and 23 Afghans.
While the release had been ordered by President Hamid Karzai several weeks ago, after his government took over the prison from U.S. troops, the Afghan leader himself described the prison as “Taliban-producing factory.”
He alleged that some detainees were tortured into hating their country.
Lieutenant General Ghulam Farouq, head of the military police that runs the Bagram prison, confirmed that the men had been released.
“They walked out of the facility and got into cars and headed off to their homes,” he told AFP.
The prisoners were freed just after 9 a.m. from the Parwan Detention Facility near Bagram Air Field, about 45 kilometers (28 miles) north of Kabul, the Associated Press reported prison spokesman Maj. Nimatullah Khaki as saying.
They boarded a bus to leave the facility, laughing and smiling, he said.
The U.S. has argued for the detainees to face trial in Afghan courts - citing strong evidence against them, from DNA linking them to roadside bombs to explosive residue on their clothing - but Kabul has cited insufficient proof to hold them.
Suspected Taliban militants freed
The identities of the 65 detainees released today was not immediately disclosed.
Among those who were expected to be freed is Mohammad Wali, who the U.S. military says is a suspected Taliban explosives expert who allegedly placed roadside bombs targeting Afghan and international forces.
The military said Wali had been biometrically linked to two roadside explosions and had a latent fingerprint match on another improvised explosive device, as well as testing positive for explosives residue.
Others expected to be freed include Nek Mohammad - who the U.S. says was captured with extensive weapons, and a man identified as Ehsanullah, who is claimed to have been biometrically matched to a roadside bomb and who tested positive for explosive residue.
The U.S. military had formally disputed the prisoners' release, but an Afghan review board had effectively overruled those challenges.
The detainees’ release has been in the works for weeks, and comes as Karzai’s government has taken an increasingly hostile tone toward the U.S. ahead of the withdrawal of NATO combat troops at the end of 2014.
(With AFP and Associated Press)