US frees 76 Taliban suspects
KABUL: The US military freed 76 Taliban suspects on Saturday as part of an effort to encourage rank and file guerrillas to lay down their arms, the latest batch freed this year despite a surge in militant violence.
The men, detained at various stages in the US-led battle against Taliban guerrillas since toppling the fundamentalists from power in 2001, were freed from a US military detention centre at the main US base at Bagram to the north of Kabul.
“I am very happy that today some of our brothers have been freed and are joining their families,” Sibghatullah Mojadidi, a former president who heads the government’s reconciliation initiative, told the former prisoners at a ceremony in Kabul. Most were from southern and eastern Afghanistan, where Taliban guerrillas remain most active.
They were the latest freed since President Hamid Karzai called for release from custody of all Afghan prisoners in US detention following an outcry over reports of abuse, including the deaths of two inmates at Bagram.
Another group of 57 were freed early this month, 53 in June, 86 in May and 81 in January.
The government reconciliation programme announced last year has seen only limited success and Afghanistan has seen a surge in Taliban-linked violence in the run up to Sept. 18 elections.
US forces have captured hundreds of suspected militants since toppling the Taliban for harbouring Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden, architect of the Sept. 11 attacks.
US military spokeswoman Lieutenant Cindy Moore said about 450 remained in custody. The United States also holds more than 500 suspected militants at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, most of whom were picked up in Afghanistan. reuters