The Afghan government has freed 65 prisoners — many linked to attacks that have killed American troops — an official tells the Associated Press.The U.S. has called the men “dangerous” fighters who will likely kill coalition and Afghan forces. American officials have questioned why President Hamid Karzai’s government is turning them loose.
Some of those who were freed have been linked to the deaths of 32 U.S. and allied troops, have ties to the most violent terror groups in Afghanistan and were caught with weapons and materials for making improvised explosive devices (IEDs), according to documents obtained by USA TODAY. They were being held at the Afghan National Detention Facility-Parwan.
“These are bad men,” said Army Col. Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman. “They’ve got a lot of blood on their hands. A lot of blood.”
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All 65 were freed Thursday morning, prison spokesman Maj. Nimatullah Khaki told the Associated Press. They were laughing and smiling as they boarded a bus to leave the prison, Khaki said.
U.S. officials have repeatedly objected to the prisoners’ release, sharing forensic and other evidence that implicates the men in attacks on American and Afghan troops and civilians. Afghanistan’s attorney general gave only, “at best, a cursory review” of the files 65 prisoners, according a military document. The U.S. military wants the men tried in Afghan courts.
“This is a step backward for the Afghan justice system,” Warren said.
A review of more than three dozen files, obtained by USA TODAY, shows many of the prisoners were captured with weapons and materials to build IEDs, the No. 1 killer of U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
Among those slated for release on Thursday:
• Mohammad Khan who was alleged to have coordinated suicide attacks. One of the suicide bombers attacked a U.S. outpost, killing one American soldier, four Afghan police officers and wounding several more Americans and Afghans.
• Rahman Gul is a Taliban commander who raised funds for the Haqqani network, the terrorist organization in eastern Afghanistan linked to continuing attacks on U.S. troops. In January 2013, Gul coordinated suicide attacks using 14-year-old children. He was captured a month later with several weapons.
• Nek Mohammad coordinated rocket attacks against U.S. and Afghan forces and helped transfer money to al-Qaeda. He was captured in May 2013 with artillery shells, mortar rounds and bags of fertilizer used to make homemade explosives.
• Abdul Ghaffar is a Taliban IED specialist who built and buried bombs in Helmand province. He was caught in July 2013 with plates used to make IEDs that detonate when a victim walking over them.
Releasing the prisoners, Warren said, is a “disservice to Afghan citizens and a disservice to American troops who have fought and sacrificed on their behalf.”
There are no plans to detain the prisoners after their release. But if they attack American and Afghans again, “we’ll deal with them then,” Warren said.