No info about Taliban leaders' release: US embassy
KABUL (PAN): The US embassy in Kabul on Monday said it had no information about the release of three high-ranking Taliban officials from the Guantánamo Bay detention facility in exchange for a captive American soldier.
Earlier in the day, media reports said the US had swapped Mullah Khairullah Khair Khwa, a former interior minister, Noorullah Noori, an ex-governor, and Mullah Fazil for Bowe Robert Bergdahl, who has been in Taliban's captivity since June 2009.
In response to an emailed query from Pajhwok Afghan News, a US embassy official said: "We have no knowledge in this regard." He refused to comment on reports to the effect in Pakistani and Arab media.
Last week, a British newspaper said the US had agreed in principle to release the top Taliban officials in return for the insurgents' agreement to open a political office for peace parleys in Qatar.
The Guardian quoted unnamed US and Afghan sources as saying the Taliban were demanding the release of the former army commander Mullah Fazl Akhund. "Washington is reported to be considering formally handing him over to the custody of another country, possibly Qatar."
But the White House repudiated any deal to free the Taliban inmates being held in Cuba. National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor dismissed The Guardian's story as untrue.
"This report is not accurate. The United States has not decided to release any Taliban officials from Guantanamo Bay in return for their agreement to open a political office for peace negotiations."
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