Afghan Taliban militants who attempted to kill American troops have been freed from prison without trial after bribing local officials in an eastern city, the Daily Telegraph reported on Monday.
The insurgents had paid off the corrupt officials with bribes worth thousands of dollars.
The alleged payoffs were not part of a judicial process or a formal reconciliation deal, the former Afghan intelligence chief from the eastern province of Ghazni, Mohammad Aref Shah Jahan, told the British newspaper.
There has been strong evidence that the Taliban militants had been attempting to kill paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division, sent to southern Ghazni this summer, the report stated.
Jahan, who was until last year head of the country’s intelligence service in the Afghan city, said there has been long-standing financial trade in prisoners.
“They are releasing the real Taliban and keeping people who are nothing,” he said, adding that the bribes were carried out under the government’s formal reintegration process for militants who claimed to have abandoned their fight.
The report noted one example, where an insurgent was caught in the Muqur district on March 31 “with eight homemade bombs was released two weeks later, after never facing trial.”
“Of 20 prisoners taken in Muqur district since the 82nd Airborne arrived, it is unclear how many are still in custody,” the report stated.
Afghan officials, when confronted, said the men were wrongly held, or had sworn their innocence on the Quran.
Another example cited a man who ran a clandestine Taliban prison and was seized in a raid but was released “soon afterwards without consultation.”
American officials later found, in at least one case, that sums of up to 600,000 Pakistani rupees (about $6,400) had changed hands to gain the release of the prisoners, the newspaper added.
But the governor of Ghazni, Musa Khan Akbarzada, told the Daily Telegraph that all captives taken in the eastern city must go before a court of justice, denying any knowledge of the corruption.
Despite the stubborn Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan, war-weary NATO forces are seeking to hand control of security to Afghan forces while withdrawing some 130,000 foreign combat troops by the end of 2014.
U.S. paratroopers are being sent to cities, such as Ghazni, to stabilize security and bolster the Afghan forces, before they pull out.
Afghan president Hamid Karzai has recently demanded at a NATO summit last month that his country receive $4.1 billion per year to fund Afghanistan’s security forces after the pullout − fearing his country could descend into a new civil war.
The United States is expected to foot half the bill while hoping the international community will stump up the rest.
On the sidelines of the summit, Karzai said he looked forward to a day when “Afghanistan is no longer a burden on the shoulders of our friends in the international community, on the shoulders of the United States and our other allies.”