Authorities release prisoners from across the country, with approximately 600 of them from notorious Bagram jail near capital Kabul, following insurgents' three-day ceasefire to mark Eid al Fitr.

Taliban prisoners walk out vehicles after their release from the Bagram prison, as they arrive in the city of Kabul on May 26, 2020.
Taliban prisoners walk out vehicles after their release from the Bagram prison, as they arrive in the city of Kabul on May 26, 2020. (AFP)

Afghan authorities freed 900 more Taliban prisoners on Tuesday, as calls grew for the insurgents to extend a ceasefire on its third and final day.

Authorities said approximately 600 of the fighters were released from the notorious Bagram jail near Kabul.

The release is part of a pledge by the Afghan government to free up to 2,000 insurgent prisoners in response to the Taliban's three-day ceasefire offer, which began Sunday to mark the Muslim holiday of Eid al Fitr.

"For better management of the prisoner issue, it is important to extend the ceasefire," Javid Faisal, a spokesman for Afghanistan's national security adviser, told a news conference.

Such an extension was key to avoiding further bloodshed and the Afghan government was ready for it, Faisal added.

But the Taliban have yet to say if they are willing to extend the ceasefire after it expires at midnight (1930 GMT).

Taliban spokesperson in Doha Suhail Shaheen said the release of Taliban prisoners by the other side "is a good progress."

He said Taliban "will release a remarkable number of prisoners soon, InshaAllah" on Twitter. 

Taliban wants foreign troops out 

Abdul Wasi, 27, from Kandahar province, much of which is under Taliban control, said he was a "holy warrior" when he was detained eight years ago.

"I was told to do jihad until all foreign troops are driven out of our country," Wasi, sporting a long beard and wearing a traditional baggy shirt-and-trouser shalwar kameez, told AFP news agency moments after he was freed.

He said he was happy about the US-Taliban deal paving the way for all foreign forces to quit Afghanistan by May next year, and that he wanted a permanent ceasefire.

"If the foreign troops exit, we won't fight," he said as he boarded a Kabul-bound bus along with other freed Taliban members.

'Extend the ceasefire'

The prisoners had signed written pledges not to return to the battlefield, but Qari Mohammadullah, another freed inmate, vowed to continue fighting if foreign forces remain in Afghanistan.

"We don't want foreigners to stay any longer in our country, they must leave immediately," Mohammadullah said.

"We will continue our jihad until every single foreign force leaves."

Each freed inmate was given the equivalent of about $65 in Afghan currency.

Push for peace talks

Another senior Taliban source told AFP the group could extend the ceasefire by seven days if the government speeds up the release of prisoners.

But insurgent spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said he had no information about an extension.

The US-Taliban deal stipulates the Afghan government would release up to 5,000 Taliban prisoners and the insurgents would free about 1,000 national security personnel.

Prior to this week's releases, Kabul had already freed about 1,000 Taliban inmates, while the insurgents released about 300 Afghan security force captives.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, while welcoming the latest developments, has insisted that freed Taliban prisoners should not return to the battlefield.

President Ashraf Ghani has said his administration is ready to begin peace negotiations, which had originally been scheduled to start by March 10, seen as key to ending the war in the impoverished country.

Deadly attacks

Before the ceasefire started the Taliban claimed multiple deadly attacks against Afghan forces across the country.

But they denied carrying out a gruesome rampage in a maternity hospital in Kabul earlier this month when gunmen shot dead mothers, nurses and newborns.

The US first built the Bagram detention centre early in the war and it gained international notoriety after details emerged of prisoner abuse.

The Afghan military now runs the facility.

Source: AFP