France asks Afghans not to free Taliban convicted of killing French citizens

FILE PHOTO: Newly freed Taliban prisoners walk at Pul-e-Charkhi prison, in Kabul, Afghanistan August 13, 2020. National Security Council of Afghanistan/Handout via REUTERS

PARIS (Reuters) - France has asked the Afghan government not to include Taliban fighters convicted of killing French citizens in a prisoner release deal, the foreign ministry said on Saturday.

The Afghan government has agreed to release 400 “hard-core” prisoners as part of moves towards peace talks with the Taliban militants, and an official said on Friday that 80 of these convicts had been freed so far.

“France is particularly concerned by the presence, among the individuals liable to be released, of several terrorists convicted of killing French citizens in Afghanistan,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.

“It firmly opposes the liberation of individuals convicted of crimes against French nationals, in particular soldiers and humanitarian workers,” it said.

“As a result, we have immediately asked the Afghan authorities not to proceed with the release of these terrorists.”

Disagreement over the release of the prisoners, who include individuals accused in connection with some of Afghanistan’s bloodiest attacks, has already delayed peace negotiations for months as the United States withdraws troops under a deal signed with the Taliban in February.

Reporting by Gus Trompiz; Editing by Daniel Wallis