Pakistan frees two senior Taliban leaders: reports

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An Afghan Taliban spokesperson in a statement to the media said that “their former deputy chief Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar had been set free by Pakistani authorities”.

According to a local media report, the statement did not say whether or not he had returned to Afghanistan but it noted that Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar was “healthy” and that “no compromise had been made to secure his freedom”.

Earlier, Pakistan had declined to comment on the alleged release as Foreign Ministry spokesman Dr Mohammad Faisal said that he would “not like to comment on media reports”.

Security experts in Kabul said the move could be a result of talks launched by the US special representative Zalmay Khalilzad with the Taliban. Earlier this month Khalilzad met Taliban leaders in Qatar in an effort to find a way to end the 17-year-old war in Afghanistan.

Mullah Baradar was the deputy head of the Taliban movement in Afghanistan at the time of his arrest in a joint ISI-CIA raid in Karachi in February 2010 and was believed to have then been working for a political settlement. It was also reported that Mullah Abdul Samad Sani, another senior Taliban commander, was also released.

A senior official in Afghanistan told Reuters that Afghan authorities believe Islamabad this week released Baradar and Sani, along with Mullah Mohammad Rasul, a third Taliban figure. Rasul is the leader of the High Council of Afghanistan Islamic Emirate, a Taliban group in Afghanistan, the Afghan official added.

In September 2013, Pakistan had officially announced it as the date for Mullah Baradar’s release. However, due to unknown reasons, he was not released on that occasion.