Taliban can submit new list of prisoners: Afghan official

Afghan authorities said Thursday they have offered the Taliban a choice to submit a new list of 592 prisoners after Kabul refused to release inmates the militants demanded to be freed ahead of peace talks.

Under the terms of a US-Taliban deal, Kabul pledged to free some 5,000 Taliban prisoners in a swap that would see the insurgents release around 1,000 Afghan security force captives.

However, Afghan authorities have refused to release 592 Taliban prisoners who face serious criminal charges, officials said.

They include people charged with murder, highway robbery, stoning of women and even sodomy, as well as hundreds of foreign fighters.

“They are too dangerous to be released,” a government official told AFP on Wednesday.

But on Thursday, National Security Council (NSC) spokesman Javid Fasial said the Taliban can submit a new list of 592 prisoners.

“We have given the Taliban the choice to submit to us another 592 names for consideration for release, or we might take matters in our own hands,” Faisal wrote on Twitter.

“The ball is in the Talib court.”

The Taliban on Wednesday accused the government of “fabricating” criminal cases against the prisoners the militants want to be freed.

Both sides have pledged to hold direct talks aimed at ending the decades-old conflict in Afghanistan after completing the prisoner exchange.

Faisal said the government has already freed 4,019 Taliban inmates.

The Taliban have so far released “barely half” of the 1,000 Afghan security personnel, he said.

The US-Taliban deal had scheduled the peace talks between the militants and government to begin in March.

But negotiations have been delayed over issues concerning the prisoner exchange.