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Afghanistan to free 72 prisoners

Kabul: Afghanistan would release scores of suspected Taliban fighters from jail, despite US objections that the men could return to the battlefield as Nato troops withdraw.

The releases are set to further strain US-Afghan relations as pressure mounts for the two countries to sign a long-delayed security deal allowing some American soldiers to stay in the country after 2014.

A meeting chaired by Afghan President Hamid Karzai “ordered the Bagram prisoners' dossier review board to free those prisoners who are innocent and against whom there is no evidence”, a statement said.

US General Joseph Dunford, commander of Nato forces in Afghanistan, had lodged an official objection to the plan, saying it was against the agreement signed when Bagram jail was handed over in March.

A spokesman for the US forces last week described them as “dangerous individuals who are legitimate threats”.

Bagram jail was passed to Afghan control by the US after a public stand-off with Karzai, who has depicted the jail as a symbol of Afghanistan's efforts to regain its national sovereignty.

The statement from Karzai's office said that of the 88 prisoners at the centre of the dispute, there was no evidence against 45 of them and only circumstantial information against 27. The remaining 16 would be kept in jail.

US officials say the 88 men were responsible for over 60 Nato coalition and 57 Afghan deaths.

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