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Thousands of Taliban fighters to be released from government custody after peace deal signed

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KABUL: Some 5,000 Taliban fighters held in the government detention would be freed after the US finalizes peace deal with the insurgents, a senior Taliban official Maulavi Abdul Salam Hanafi said.

Hanafi, a member of the group’s political office in Qatar, said Monday that the deal would be signed as soon as on February 29th.

He added that they would start holding meeting with the government and political leaders in the framework of ‘Intra-Afghan’ dialogue shortly after their comrades were freed.

The US special envoy for Afghanistan peace, Zalmay Khalilzad has been engaged in talks with Taliban negotiators since September 2018 to find a way for peace in the war-ravaged country.

Now, the two sides are said to have been ready for signing a deal which encourages the US to pull its troops out of Afghanistan. Taliban have agreed on a reduction in violence, according to reports, a move earlier demanded by Khalilzad.

Hanafi said in an interview that everything was finalized and they would sign the deal with the US side on February 29th at the end of the reduction in violence period of time.

But he emphasized on the release of their 5,000 colleagues as an “important condition”, saying they would also free government forces being held in their detention.

Hanafi said the deal would be signed in the Qatari capital city of Doha in whichc Afghanistan’s neighboring countries as well as the states involved in Afghan affairs and international organizations and the European Union’s representatives would attend.

But people familiar with the negotiations are concerned some anti-peace circles would likely carry out attacks to sabotage the process.

Suhail Shahin, Spokesman of Taliban’s Political Office in Qatar had earlier said that the militants and the United States would separately release statements to announce the date and place of deal signing.

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