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Pakistan hands over prisoners to Afghanistan

Written by: Staff
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QUETTA, Pakistan, July 23 (Reuters) Pakistan handed over 58 prisoners to the Afghan authorities today, a week after a crackdown aimed at catching Taliban fighters living around the western city of Quetta.

''The Afghan authorities will investigate the prisoners before releasing them to see if they include any Taliban,'' said Inspector Munsif Khan, of the Pakistan police in the southwest province of Baluchistan.

Early last week, police arrested 250 Afghans, including Taliban and members of a madrasa, on grounds that they lacked proper documents.

Senior police officials said the bulk of those detained had fought with the Taliban in Afghanistan. Over 50 of those originally arrested were later freed.

The Afghan government, the United States and NATO powers with forces in Afghanistan want Pakistan to act more forcefully against the Taliban, particularly in the Baluch capital of Quetta where many settled after the religious militia was ousted from power in 2001.

The prisoners, some as young as 16, were brought in handcuffs and with a heavy security escort to the Afghan border checkpost at Spin Boldak.

''My house is in Quetta and the police arrested me without telling me any reason,'' Abdullah, 38, said as he was handed over to the Afghan authorities.

Another prisoner said he was not among those arrested last week, but had been detained over a month ago.

''I am a daily wage earner and was arrested because I did not have the documents. I am 16 years old and cannot get the permit to stay until I am 18,'' said Naseebullah.

Pakistan and Afghanistan agreed to swap prisoners after a visit last week to Kabul by Pakistani officials.

''Afghanistan has 82 Pakistani prisoners in its custody and agreed to release 17 next week,'' a Pakistani Interior Ministry official said.

Reuters DKB DB1934

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