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Afghan president: Release prisoners US wanted held

By Amir Shah

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, Jan. 9 2014 9:59 a.m. MST

Afghan President Hamid Karzai speaks during a joint press conference with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in Kabul, Afghanistan, Saturday, Nov. 30, 2013. Karzai on Thursday ordered the release of all but 16 prisoners from a group of 88 detainees that the U.S. says pose a threat to the country and region.

Rahmat Gul, Associated Press

Enlarge photo»

KABUL, Afghanistan — Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Thursday ordered the release of all but 16 prisoners from a group of 88 detainees that the U.S. says pose a threat to the country and region.

In a statement, Karzai said that a review of the prisoners' cases by Afghan intelligence and judicial officials turned up no evidence of wrongdoing for 45 of the detainees. Karzai said there was insufficient evidence on another 27 and that they must be released. The statement gave no details on when the release will take place.

The remaining 16 detainees will remain in custody until their cases can be reviewed further, the statement said.

The prisoners' possible release has been a sticking point in Afghan-U.S. relations. Last week, a group of U.S. senators met Karzai in Kabul to warn him that release of the 88 detainees from the Parwan Detention Facility "would be a major step backwards" for U.S.-Afghan relations.

An Afghan panel last week ordered the release of 650 detainees from the Parwan Detention Facility. The U.S. says that there is "ample evidence" to suspect 88 of those detainees in the death or wounding of 60 coalition forces and 57 Afghan forces. The U.S. wants those 88 to face trial in Afghanistan.

The U.S. turned over control of the Parwan facility, located near the U.S.-run Bagram military base north of Kabul, to Afghan authorities last March.

Meanwhile, suicide bombers attacked a police station in Helmand province, killing one police officer and wounding three, a provincial spokesman said.

The attack Thursday evening also wounded six civilians, provincial government spokesman Omar Zawak said. Zawak said two suicide bombers detonated their explosives and police shot dead two other attackers before they could set off their bombs.

The attack took place in the Lashkar Gah, the provincial capital of Helmand, a Taliban stronghold.

Lashkar Gah is also where earlier Thursday, the father of an Afghan girl who police say was part of a botched suicide bomb attack said he's afraid the Taliban will kill him and his daughter if they return to their village in southern Afghanistan.

Abdul Ghafar, the father of Spozhmai, told reporters he couldn't keep his daughter alive "even for a night" should they return to Khan Nishin, the village in Helmand province where the alleged plot took place.

Ghafar says he wants to take his daughter to live with another daughter in eastern Ghazni province as soon as police finish their investigation.

Spozhmai, who police say is 10, says her brother fitted her with an explosives-packed vest and urged her to attack a police checkpoint, but she refused. The Taliban has denied being involved.

Associated Press writers Abdul Khaliq in Lashkar Gah, Afghanistan, and Greg Keller contributed to this report.

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