Afghan govt says 610 soldiers missing from Taliban custody

The allegation comes amid an unofficial prisoner release process being carried out by both sides, despite failed negotiations

The Afghan government has alleged that at least 610 members of its security forces detained by the Taliban, who were supposed to be in the rebels' prisons, were missing.

Javid Faisal, the spokesperson for the National Security Council, the official body handling a prisoner swap with the Taliban, told the media here on Monday that out of a list of 1,000 prisoners which the government had given to the rebels, more than half were missing, reports Efe news.

"We ask Taliban to clarify where are these 610 persons who had been detained by them, whether they have killed them, kept them in secret locations or sold them, whatever happened to them, they have to share information," Faisal said. "If these persons had been martyred (by Taliban, after detention), then this is a war crime."

Unofficial prisoner release process underway

The allegation comes amid an unofficial prisoner release process being carried out by both sides, despite failed negotiations, as part of an agreement between the Taliban and the US that included the swapping of 5,000 Taliban prisoners for 1,000 Afghan security personnel imprisoned by the rebels.

YouTube/Screen Grab

The government has so far released 1,000 Taliban prisoners, and Faisal alleged that the rebels have failed to keep up their part of the bargain - of releasing one government prisoner in exchange for five of their fighters - as they had released just 171 prisoners, out of which only 105 were members of the security forces.

"The Afghan government is committed to releasing Taliban prisoners (five rebels for one government prisoner) but if the Taliban don't have prisoners or they have conducted illegal behaviour with prisoners and the prisoners are lost then we are also not obliged to go ahead as per the agreement," the spokesperson warned.

Prisoner swap postponed several times

However, a Taliban spokesperson responded by saying the group had additionally released 53 government prisoners each on Sunday and Monday. "They were given clothes and 5000 Afs ($65) for transportation fare," Suhail Shaheen tweeted

The prisoner swap, which has been postponed several times, is an important step of the historic Taliban-US peace agreement, which is expected to pave the way for the withdrawal of US troops from the country, and a prerequisite to intra-Afghan negotiations.