Afghanistan: Defiant Karzai sets free 72 prisoners

Abdul Ghafar with daughter Spozhmai who is accused of being part of a bomb plot. Picture: AP
Abdul Ghafar with daughter Spozhmai who is accused of being part of a bomb plot. Picture: AP
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Afghan president Hamid Karzai has ordered the release of all but 16 prisoners from a group of 88 that Washington says pose a threat to the country and region.

Mr Karzai said a review of the prisoners’ cases by Afghan intelligence and judicial officials had turned up no evidence of wrongdoing in 45 cases, while there was insufficient evidence in another 27, and that those 72 detainees must be released.

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

The prisoners’ possible release has been a sticking point in Kabul’s relations with the United States. Last week, a group of American senators visited Mr Karzai and warned him the release of the 88 detainees from Parwan jail “would be a major step backwards” for US-Afghan relations.

The US turned over control of Parwan jail, located near the US-run Bagram military base, to Afghan authorities last March.

An Afghan panel last week ordered the release of 650 detainees from Parwan. The US says there is “ample evidence” to suspect 88 of those detainees over the killing or wounding of 60 coalition forces and 57 Afghan forces. The US wants those 88 to face trial in Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, suicide bombers attacked a police station in Helmand province, killing one officer and wounding three. 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 Taleban stronghold.

Lashkar Gah is also where, earlier yesterday, the father of an Afghan girl accused of being part of a botched suicide bomb attack said he was afraid the Taleban would kill her and him if they returned 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 where the alleged plot took place.

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

According to police, Spozhmai, ten, says her brother fitted her with an explosives-packed vest and urged her to attack a police checkpoint but she refused. The Taleban has denied being involved.

Over the border, the Pakistani Taleban has finally succeeded in killing the police chief who had long been their scourge.

Superintendent Chaudhry Aslam and three other officers were killed in Karachi yesterday, after a car packed with explosives rammed his vehicle.

The Taleban described his killing as a “huge victory”, while prime minister Nawaz Sharif condemned the bombing.

Chain-smoking Supt Aslam, dubbed “Pakistan’s toughest cop” by local media and a celebrated figure in a country where citizens decry the authorities’ failure to crack down on criminals and militants, has been targeted by the Taleban before.

In 2011, the militant group rammed his house with a huge car bomb, killing eight people but leaving his family unscathed. “I will not be cowed. I will teach a lesson to generations of militants,” he said at the time, adding that he had already survived eight other attempts on his life.

In recent years, Karachi has seen a sharp growth in violence, and Supt Aslam had played a leading role in arresting scores of militants and other criminals there in recent years.