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Afghanistan frees militants once held by U.S.

Jan. 4, 2013 - 07:06AM   |   Last Updated: Jan. 4, 2013 - 07:06AM  |  
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KABUL, Afghanistan — Some 250 prisoners formerly held by the U.S. have been released by Afghan authorities in hopes that this will lead to reconciliation in the 11-year conflict, a Defense Ministry spokesman said Friday.

Police Maj. Jalal Uddin said that 80 were freed from prisons across the country that day, the latest batch of a total of 400 to be released this week. The released prisoners had been captured in operations against the Taliban and other groups.

"We are certain they can help to bring peace in Afghanistan and will support the government," he said. Uddin said that members of the Afghan High Peace Council as well as relatives were at the Kabul prison for the release. The council is tasked with seeking a peace agreement with the Taliban and other militant groups before NATO, including the United States, withdraws most of its forces by the end of 2014.

The council also hopes that the release of 26 Taliban prisoners by Pakistan over the past two months will help end the conflict, with the freed serving as intermediaries between Kabul and the Taliban leadership.

The U.S. military held thousands of prisoners at a facility on its base in Bagram near Kabul but, since an agreement with the Afghan government last March, more than 3,000 were transferred to Afghan control. President Hamid Karzai has criticized U.S. forces for still keeping some prisoners under custody.

Washington believes that the Afghans are not ready to take over the handling of all the prisoners, while insisting that the Kabul government agree to hold without trial some detainees that the U.S. deems too dangerous to release.

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