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Despite US protests, Afghanistan to release detainees

KABUL — The Afghan government is planning to release a group of 65 inmates that the United States conisiders highly dangerous within the next 24 hours, the NATO-led coalition said late Wednesday. The inmantes were being held at a former US detention facility.

US forces in Afghanistan have repeatedly registered strong concerns about releasing the detainees, who it says have the blood of international and Afghan soldiers on their hands — plus strong evidence against them, from DNA linking them to roadside bombs to explosive residue on their clothing.

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When President Hamid Karzai ordered their release several weeks ago from the Parwan Detention Facility, it prompted angry denunciations from the United States and strained relations between the two countries ahead of the year-end withdrawal of most international combat troops.

The international coalition on Wednesday issued the latest in a string of statements condemning the release, which it said would begin early Thursday morning and include detainees directly linked to attacks that have killed or wounded 32 US or coalition personnel and 23 Afghan security personnel or civilians.

The United States has stressed it wants the detainees to face trial in Afghanistan, but Kabul has cited insufficient proof to hold them — despite US claims it has strong evidence against the prisoners.

Karzai, too, has referred to the Parwan Detention Facility as a ‘‘Taliban-producing factory’’ where innocent Afghans are tortured into hating their country.

The US military said Wednesday that two American soldiers were killed and four wounded in an attack Wednesday by gunmen wearing Afghan security force uniforms east of Kabul. No details of the attack were provided.

Kabul has cited insufficient proof to hold the inmates despite US claims it has strong evidence against them.

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Among the prisoners expected to walk free Thursday morning are Mohammad Wali, who the US military says is a suspected Taliban explosives expert who allegedly placed roadside bombs targeting Afghan and international forces.

The military said Wali had been biometrically linked to two roadside explosions and had a latent fingerprint match on another improvised explosive device — plus tested positive for explosives residue.

Others in the group include Nek Mohammad — who the United States says was captured with extensive weapons, and a man identified as Ehsanullah, who is claimed to have been biometrically matched to a roadside bomb and tested positive for explosive residue.

The US military had formally disputed the prisoners’ release, but an Afghan review board had effectively overruled those challenges.

The detainees’ release has been in the works for weeks, and comes as Karzai’s government has taken a hostile tone toward the United States ahead of the withdrawal of NATO combat troops at the end of 2014.

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