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Afghan leader orders release of 72 detainees

KABUL — Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Thursday ordered the release of 72 detainees accused of attacking foreign and government forces, despite US fears that the inmates could return to the insurgency.

The issue has been a sticking point in Afghan-US relations as the two sides struggle to agree on a framework for the withdrawal of American and allied forces by the end of next year. Last week, a group of US senators met Karzai in Kabul to warn him that the release of the 88 detainees from the Parwan Detention Facility would be a major step backward for Afghan-US relations.

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A review of the detainees’ cases by Afghan intelligence and judicial officials turned up no evidence of wrongdoing by 45 of them, and there was insufficient evidence on another 27, so they must be released, Karzai said in a statement. He gave no details on when the release would take place.

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

The United States wants all 88 to face trial in Afghanistan, saying it has evidence implicating them in the death or wounding of 60 coalition forces and 57 Afghan forces.

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