Fury as Afghan 'danger men' freed
Published 13/02/2014 | 06:47
Afghanistan has released 65 accused militants from a former US prison today amid protests from the American military.
The US says they are Taliban fighters who will probably return to the battlefield to kill coalition and Afghan forces.
Their release was ordered by President Hamid Karzai several weeks ago, after his government took over the prison from US troops.
The decision prompted angry condemnation from Washington and strained relations between the two countries ahead of the year-end withdrawal of most international combat troops. US forces in Afghanistan say some of the men are responsible for killing or wounding dozens of international and Afghan soldiers.
The prisoners were freed from the Parwan Detention Facility near Bagram airfield, about 28 miles north of Kabul. Prison spokesman Major Nimatullah Khaki said t hey boarded a bus laughing and smiling.
The US has argued for the detainees to face trial in Afghan courts - citing strong evidence against them, from DNA linking them to roadside bombs to explosive residue on their clothing - but Kabul says there is insufficient proof to hold them.
Mr Karzai, too, has referred to the Parwan prison as a "Taliban-producing factory" where innocent Afghans are tortured into hating their country.
The US military last night issued a strongly worded statement condemning the imminent release, which it said would include detainees directly linked to attacks that have killed or wounded 32 US or coalition personnel and 23 Afghan security staff or civilians.
Afghan Defence Ministry spokesman Mohammad Zair Azimi would not comment on US concerns. "Our responsibility is the protection of the prisoners. That is all," he said.
Among those who expected to walk free today was Mohammad Wali, who the US military says is a suspected Taliban explosives expert who allegedly placed roadside bombs targeting Afghan and international forces.
The military said Wali had been biometrically linked to two roadside explosions and had a latent fingerprint match on another improvised explosive device. He had also tested positive for explosives residue.
Others in the group include Nek Mohammad - who the US says was captured with extensive weapons - and a man identified as Ehsanullah, who is claimed to have been biometrically matched to a roadside bomb and who tested positive for explosives residue.
The US military had formally disputed the prisoners' release but an Afghan review board had effectively overruled those challenges.
The detainees' release has been in the works for weeks, and comes as Mr Karzai's government has taken an increasingly hostile tone towards the US ahead of the withdrawal of Nato combat troops at the end of 2014.