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Friday, 16 August, 2002, 12:44 GMT 13:44 UK
Afghanistan to free jailed foreigners
Prisoners of war in northern Afghanistan
The majority of the prisoners are Pakistanis
The Afghan Government says it will release hundreds of foreign nationals who were caught fighting alongside the Taleban during the US-led military operation in the country.

The majority of the prisoners are Pakistanis.

An official at the Peshawar consulate told the BBC that the decision to release them was taken at a meeting between Afghan and Pakistani officials in Islamabad last week.

Former Pakistani prisoners in Peshawar
Some prisoners have been returned to Pakistan

"They will be freed in several rounds in groups of 20s or 30s in the near future," an official told the Reuters news agency.

Over 2,000 prisoners, including some Arabs, were in detention centres controlled by Afghan warlords in different provinces and in the Afghanistan capital, Kabul.

They were taken prisoner after surrendering to the Northern Alliance during the last days of the Taleban, which was defeated in the US-led war.

Concern for prisoners

In May, 204 prisoners were flown back to the Pakistani border town of Peshawar.

The release came amid criticism about inhuman conditions in which most of the prisoners were being kept in Afghanistan.

A European Union team said after a visit that the prisoners were "ghost-like figures with nothing left on their bodies except their bones".

Dozens are thought to have died of their wounds or been asphyxiated by close confinement during the journey to jail.

Human rights groups have also raised concerns about conditions for Taleban and al-Qaeda prisoners transferred to the US naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The US Government says that prisoners in Guantanamo are treated humanely and within the Geneva Conventions.


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12 Dec 01 | South Asia
21 Dec 01 | South Asia
13 May 02 | South Asia
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