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Dozens Reported Freed In Raid On Taliban Prison In Afghanistan

Omar Zwak, a spokesman for the Helmand governor
Omar Zwak, a spokesman for the Helmand governor

Afghan official say dozens of people, including security personnel and civilians, have been freed from a Taliban prison in southern Helmand Province.

The exact number of those released was not immediately clear. Omar Zwak, a spokesman for the provincial governor, said on July 17 that 54 people were freed after a special forces commando unit raided the prison late on July 16 in Musa Qala district.

Zwak said there were 32 civilians, 16 police, four soldiers, and two military doctors who had been locked up by the insurgents.

He said security forces were still securing the area.

The Taliban did not immediately comment on the raid, but the insurgents are in control of the majority of the districts in Helmand, where they have increased their attacks against provincial officials and security forces.

Afghan special forces spokesman Jawid Saleem said 45 people were released, including 15 police officers and four members of the Afghan National Army, two doctors, and a group of local residents.

Helmand is one of the most embattled provinces in southern Afghanistan. More than 80 percent of its territory is controlled by the Taliban.

Separately, at least nine Afghan Army soldiers were killed on July 16 after Taliban militants attacked their checkpoints in northern Kunduz Province, officials said. Dozens more were injured in the attacks on at least two checkpoints in Imam Saheb district of the province, according to provincial council member Mohmmad Yousif Ayoubi.

Meanwhile, the Associated Press reports, quoting an unnamed U.S. official, that Washington is open to holding direct talks with the Taliban to encourage negotiations between the militant group and the Afghan government to end 17 years of war.

The move, if confirmed, would mark a tactical shift by the Trump administration, which has previously only appeared willing to participate in discussions with the Taliban if those talks also involve the Afghan government.

With reporting by AP and dpa