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U.S. Angered By Afghan Release Of 65 Accused Militants

Afghan National Army soldiers stand guard outside Bagram prison, about 50 kilometers north of Kabul, on February 13.
The United States says Afghanistan's decision to release 65 accused militants from a former U.S. prison near Kabul is "deeply regrettable."

The suspected militants were freed early on February 13 from Bagram prison, which was transfered under Afghan authority last year.

"According to the information we received from our military police headquarters, we confirmed that 65 prisoners from Bagram prison have been released this morning," Defense Ministry spokesman Zahir Azimi told reporters.

RELATED: Kabul Releases 65 Militants Despite U.S. Protests

The U.S. Embassy in Kabul said in a statement that the Afghan government "bears responsibility for the results of its decision."

The statement urged Afghan authorities "to make every effort to ensure that those released do not commit new acts of violence and terror."

In a statement issued on February 13, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the release of the 65 prisoners poses serious security concerns and is a "major step backwards" for the rule of law.

He said the decision appeared to have been "based on political calculations" and called on Afghan authorities to make sure those released do not pose a further threat.

President Hamid Karzai, who ordered the releases, has called Bagram prison a "Taliban-producing factory" and said some of the prisoners had been tortured into hating their own country.

Abdul Shakor Dadras, head of the Afghan Review Board, told the media that no proof of guilt existed.

"We could not find any evidence to prove that these 65 people are criminals according to Afghan law," Dadras said. "There was no reason to keep them in the prison, though there was no evidence of the period they have spent inside the prison and the overall process was unlawful and illegal."

Bagram prison, 50 kilometers north of Kabul, had been the main detention center housing Taliban and other suspected insurgents captured by coalition forces.

Observers believe the Afghan government hopes that the releases can help revive peace talks with the Taliban, who were ousted from power in 2001.

However, the decision is sure to further strain relations between Washington and Kabul as international troops get set to leave the country by the end of the year.

Based on reporting by AP, AFP, and RFE/RL