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Afghan assembly approves release of 400 ‘hard-core’ Taliban prisoners

KABUL — Afghanistan’s grand assembly, or Loya Jirga, on Sunday approved the release of 400 “hard-core” Taliban prisoners, paving the way for the beginning of peace talks aimed at ending more than 19 years of war.

“In order to remove an obstacle, allow the start of the peace process and an end of bloodshed, the Loya Jirga approves the release of 400 Taliban,” the assembly said in a resolution.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani had convened the assembly in the capital Kabul, where some 3,200 Afghan community leaders and politicians gathered amid tight security and concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic to advise the government on whether the prisoners should be freed.

The Taliban militants had insisted they be released as a condition for entering peace talks with the government. With the release, the Afghan government will fulfill its pledge to release 5,000 Taliban prisoners.

Western diplomats said talks between the warring parties will start in Doha this week.

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