Afghan government to release key Taliban figure

KABUL, Nov 12 (AA/APP):The Afghan government will release a key Taliban leader as part of a prisoner swap deal with the insurgents, the president said on Tuesday.

In a televised address to the nation, Ashraf Ghani said the government will release Anas Haqqani in exchange for the release of two foreign lecturers of the American University of Afghanistan in Kabul.

“We have decided to release three Taliban prisoners from Bagram prison, including Anas Haqqani,” Ghani said.

Anas Haqqani is the son of Jalaluddin Haqqani, an anti-Soviet leader of Haqqani network who died in 2018.

The prisoner exchange will also release two university professors — the U.S. citizen Kevin King and Australian Timothy Weeks — who were arrested at a gunpoint in Kabul in August 2016.

According to a source close to the Taliban, two more Taliban figures Hafiz Abd Rashid and Mali Khan will also be released with Haqqani as part of the deal.

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They will be handed over to the Taliban political office in Qatar, the source told Anadolu Agency. The move is seen pivotal in breaking the deadlock in nascent yet fragile peace talks.

Last month, Ghani’s National Security Adviser Hamdullah Mohib said the U.S. envoy for Afghan peace Zalmay Khalilzad discussed the release of Haqqani with the Afghan president during his latest trip to Kabul and subsequent meetings with the Taliban insurgents in Doha, Qatar. The Haqqani Network is an offshoot of the Taliban wielding significant clout in the insurgency entering 19th year.

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