US peace envoy to Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, on Sunday (local time) welcomed the prisoner releases by both Kabul and Taliban.
He said that both sides should "accelerate efforts" to meet targets of the US-Taliban agreement because "potential for COVID-19 outbreaks in prisons poses a real threat", Tolo News reported.
The Afghan government has so far released 361 Taliban prisoners from Bagram prison, said Javid Faisal, a spokesman for the Office of the National Security Council.
As per President Ashraf Ghani's decree, said Faisal, "releases will continue across other prisons to free a total of 1,500 as part of our efforts to advance peace and fight COVID19."
On Sunday, the Taliban released 20 government prisoners, the group tweeted.
The Taliban sent photos of the released prisoners to TOLOnews and said they were handed over to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) today in Kandahar province.
The release was confirmed in a tweet by the head of the ICRC in Afghanistan, Juan-Pedro Schaerer. "Today we facilitated the release of 20 Afghan National Defense and Security Forces who were detained by the Taliban and transferred them to the Governor's Office in Kandahar," he said.
This comes as a third group of 100 Taliban prisoners was released by the Afghan government, the Office of the National Security Council said on Sunday.
Based on the US-Taliban peace agreement, 5,000 prisoners of the group should be released by the Afghan government, and 1,000 prisoners should be released by the Taliban, to pave the way for intra-Afghan negotiations.
On Friday, Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, responded to the first group of prisoners released by the Afghan government, calling the freed detainees "unidentified."
Before the release, a Taliban team tasked with witnessing the process and verifying the prisoner list had reportedly left Kabul over disagreements with the Afghan government about the process.
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