03:49 GMT14 July 2020
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    MOSCOW (Sputnik) - The Afghan government has released 361 members of the Taliban movement, National Security Council Spokesperson Javid Faisal said on Monday.

    "The government released 361 Taliban prisoners from Bagram prison according to a presidential decree from 11 March. As per the decree, releases will continue across other prisons to free a total of 1,500 as part of our efforts to advance peace and fight #COVID19", Faisal wrote on Twitter.

    It was previously reported that the government had released 300 Taliban prisoners, and the Taliban had handed over 20 Afghan prisoners to the International Committee of the Red Cross in the southern province of Kandahar.

    © AP Photo / Hussein Sayed
    Afghanistan's Taliban delegation arrive for the agreement signing between Taliban and U.S. officials in Doha, Qatar, Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020.

    US Special Representative for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad welcomed the prisoner release by the warring parties, calling on them to boost their efforts.

    "The release of prisoners is an important step in the peace process and the reduction of violence. Both sides should accelerate efforts to meet targets specified in the US-Taliban agreement as soon as possible. The potential for COVID-19 outbreaks in prisons poses a real threat and all the more reason to move urgently", Khalilzad wrote on Twitter.

    In late February, the United States and the Taliban signed a long-awaited peace deal in Qatar. The agreement envisions the complete withdrawal of US and NATO troops from Afghanistan within 14 months and the start of direct intra-Afghan negotiations following the mutual release of prisoners. However, clashes continue in the country amid disagreements over the prisoner release process.

    Afghanistan has confirmed 607 COVID-19 cases so far, with the death toll currently at 18.

    Tags:
    prisoner release, Taliban, Taliban, Afghanistan
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