A day before the start of Ramadan, the Afghan government has released another batch of Taliban prisoners, the National Security Council said on Thursday, in spite of a surge in deadly attacks.
On Wednesday, 55 prisoners were released from jails in nine provinces as part of government efforts to advance peace and fight the novel coronavirus, the National Security Council spokesman Javid Faisal said on Twitter.
The government had freed nearly 500 Taliban prisoners in recent weeks, the Taliban militant group has released 60 prisoners so far.
In a message to mark the occasion of Ramadan, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani urged the militants to agree to a ceasefire and stop the violence.
“At this critical juncture as the coronavirus spreads across the country, the government and people of Afghanistan demand that the Taliban accept our call for peace and ceasefire out of respect for the holy month of Ramadan,’’ Ghani said.
The call was supported by the United Nation’s special envoy for Afghanistan.
In a statement, the UN envoy in Afghanistan Deborah Lyons, encouraged everyone to back the UN’s call for a global ceasefire amid the pandemic.
A U.S.Taliban agreement inked in late February requires the release of up to 5,000 Taliban prisoners in exchange for 1,000 pro-government prisoners.
The Afghan government says it will release 1,500 Taliban inmates before the start of intra-Afghan peace talks with the Taliban that was initially planned for March 10.
The militant group, however, said that all 5,000 should be released before any talk take place.