Wednesday Jan 04, 201203:49 PM GMT
Deal: US to release Taliban leaders
Wed Jan 4, 2012 1:14PM
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Former Taliban Deputy Defense Minister Mohammed Fazl
The United States is set to release several Taliban leaders from the Guantanamo Bay prison after Washington struck a deal with the militant group agreeing to their opening of an office in Qatar.

Former Taliban Interior Minister Mullah Khair Khowa and senior Taliban military commander Noorullah Noori are among the Taliban officials, The Guardian reported on Tuesday.

The US may release "high-risk detainee" and former Taliban Deputy Defense Minister Mohammed Fazl, held at Guantanamo since 2002, but hand him over to Qatar, the newspaper said.

Fazl was allegedly involved in the massacre of thousands of Afghan Shia Muslims between 1998 and 2001.

The report comes after the Taliban announced earlier on Tuesday that it would open a liaison office in Qatar to conduct negotiations with the "international community."

"We have reached a preliminary understanding with relevant sides, including the government of Qatar, to have a political office for negotiations with the international community," Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said.

According to the report, secret talks between American and Taliban officials over the opening of a Taliban office and the release of prisoners have been underway for more than a year in Germany and Qatar.

It is not clear when the office will open, and there is also likely to be disagreement about the role of the Kabul government.

Last week, Afghan President Hamid Karzai agreed under pressure to a US proposal to let the militants establish an office outside Afghanistan.

The Afghan president strongly rejected the idea previously, saying that he was not consulted with over the potential venue of a Taliban office.

The US-led war on Afghanistan was launched under the pretext of toppling the Taliban regime. Now after a decade, the White House has decided to hold negotiations with the militants.

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