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U.S. Expresses Concern Over Planned Afghan Prisoner Release

Children at prison facilities near Bagram where many of the inmates were being held. (file photo)
Children at prison facilities near Bagram where many of the inmates were being held. (file photo)
The United States has expressed concern after Kabul announced it will release scores of prisoners whom Washington considers a security risk.

A U.S. State Department spokesperson said the 72 detainees Kabul plans to release are "dangerous criminals."

"We have expressed our concerns over the possible release of these detainees without their cases being referred to the Afghan criminal justice system," Jen Psaki told reporters in Washington on January 9.

"We've seen reports that [Afghan] President [Hamid] Karzai has approved the release of 72 out of the 88 detainees under review. As you may also know, these 72 detainees are dangerous criminals against whom there is strong evidence linking them to terror-related crimes, including the use of improvised explosive devices, the largest killer of Afghan citizens."

Earlier on January 9, a statement from Karzai said there was little or no evidence linking the 72 to any wrongdoing.

It's unclear when the releases will take place.

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

Last week, a group of U.S. senators met Karzai in Kabul to warn him that the release of 88 detainees from the Parwan Detention Facility "would be a major step backwards" in U.S.-Afghan relations.

U.S. officials turned over control of the Parwan facility -- near the U.S.-run Bagram military base north of Kabul -- to Afghan authorities last March.

The prisoner release is the latest sticking point in relations between Kabul and Washington.

The two sides are struggling to agree on a framework security agreement, spelling out the terms and conditions for some U.S. troops to remain in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of the NATO-led force later this year.

Meanwhile, two suicide bombers attacked a police station late on January 9 in Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand Province.

Officials say one police officer was killed and nine people, including six civilians, were wounded.

Police said officers shot dead two other attackers before they could ignite their explosives.

With reporting by AP and Reuters