Pakistan frees Taliban leader after US talks with militants

A top Taliban commander held in Pakistani detention for more than eight years has been freed, sources said on Thursday, in an apparent move to aid tentative talks between the US and the militant group.

The release of Abdul Ghani Baradar — the former right-hand man of Taliban founder Mullah Omar, who died in 2013 — came less than two weeks after US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad met with the group’s representatives in Qatar to discuss ending the Afghan conflict.

Baradar was among several senior Taliban leaders freed this week, after the Taliban demanded their release in direct talks with Khalilzad on October 12, a senior Taliban leader told AFP on the condition of anonymity.

“We believe that they were released at the US’s request,” the leader said.

He said Baradar would likely stay in Pakistan and shuttle between the Taliban’s Doha office, Kabul and Islamabad.

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