Freeing Taliban detainees a "grave concern": Canada

Wed Dec 1, 2010 12:27pm EST
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By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada has expressed its "grave concern" to Kabul that Afghan security forces are regularly freeing senior Taliban captives, a Canadian official said on Wednesday.

Reuters revealed on Tuesday that senior Taliban prisoners were being released either for payment or for political motives, with President Hamid Karzai and his powerful brother among those authorizing and requesting releases.

One of the freed men was Ghulam Haidar, a top insurgent in the southern Taliban heartland of Kandahar, where Canada has a 2,800-strong combat mission.

Canadian soldiers handed Haidar over to Afghan authorities in March this year, yet days later he was out on the streets.

"The government of Canada has raised the issue of release of high value detainees by Afghan authorities on a number of occasions with senior officials of the government of Afghanistan," said a Canadian government spokeswoman.

She said Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon "has also directed officials to call in the Afghan ambassador to raise this particular issue as a grave concern".

Afghan officials declined to discuss the case of Haidar.

The revelations of prisoner releases suggest that complex loyalties and widespread corruption are hampering the West's fight against the insurgency.   Continued...

<p>A Canadian soldier from the NATO-led coalition checks a positive result on a gunpowder residue test kit with samples taken from a Taliban suspect (R) captured on a day of heavy fighting against insurgents during a combat operation in the Sangsar area of Zhari district in Kandahar province, southern Afghanistan November 17, 2007. REUTERS/Finbarr O'Reilly</p>