Afghan ceasefire holds as hundreds of Taliban prisoners are released


Kaboul (AFP)

A rare ceasefire between the Taliban and the Afghan government appeared to hold for the third and final day on Sunday, with hundreds of militant prisoners released in a bid to bring peace talks closer.

Calm has reigned over much of Afghanistan, with officials reporting no major clashes between the two enemies since the truce began on Friday to mark the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha.

President Ashraf Ghani and the Taliban have both indicated that long-delayed negotiations could begin just after Eid.

“This Eid is different, the parks are full of people… you almost forget that there has been a war in this country for 40 years,” said Shahpoor Shadab, a resident of the eastern city of Jalalabad.

In the troubled province of Zabul, several residents recited poems calling for the ceasefire – only the third official cessation of fighting in nearly two decades of conflict – to be made permanent.

“Peace is everyone’s need and aspiration,” said Sardar Wali, who attended the poetry session.

“This is an excellent opportunity to extend the ceasefire today and to start intra-Afghan talks tomorrow.”

Under an agreement signed by the Taliban and the United States in February, “intra-Afghan” talks were due to start in March, but were delayed amid political strife in Kabul and a prisoner swap. controversial continued.

The agreement stipulated that Kabul would release around 5,000 Taliban prisoners in exchange for 1,000 Afghan security agents held by the Taliban.

The National Security Council said on Sunday that another 300 Taliban prisoners had been released since Friday, bringing the total number of insurgents released to date to just over 4,900.

The authorities, however, refused to release hundreds of detainees accused of serious crimes whom the insurgents had asked to be released.

The Taliban said they had already completed their part of the exchange.

Deadly violence has rocked Afghanistan since the deal between the United States and the Taliban was reached, with more than 3,500 Afghan soldiers killed in insurgent attacks, according to Ghani.


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