Pakistan releases 7 Afghan Taliban fighters

Pakistan on Saturday announced the release of seven detained Afghan Taliban militants to facilitate the Afghan reconciliation process.

A Foreign Ministry press release identified the seven as Mansoor Dadullah, Said Wali, Abdul Mannan, Karim Agha, Sher Afzal, Gul Mohammad and Muhammad Zai.

"Their release is in addition to 26 Taliban detainees released last year," the press release said.

Dadullah is a brother of prominent Taliban commander Mullah Dadullah, a Taliban commander who was killed in 2007. Mohammad served as governor of Kunar Province when the country was under Taliban rule.

Officials watching the Afghan situation had no clue about the identities of the five others. However, Afghan sources said two or three of them were low-ranking Taliban officials belonging to Ningarhar province in eastern Afghanistan.

Official sources told Kyodo News that the 33 Taliban released so far are among 40 held by Pakistan.

The insurgents were released in Pakistan instead of being handed over to the Afghan government as requested by Kabul, according to the sources.

Very few of the released 33 Taliban have returned to their homes in Afghanistan, and according to media reports, several of them have rejoined Taliban fighters in Afghanistan.

During their official visit to Islamabad last month, Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Salahuddin Rabbani, chairman of the Afghan High Peace Council, sought the release of all Afghan Taliban fighters detained in Pakistan.

They particularly sought the release of Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, a right-hand man of Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Omar, but he was not among those released by Pakistan.