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Taliban Hands Over Tajik Soldiers Captured Last Year

Tajikistan's State Committee for National Security on June 16 confirmed that the Taliban has handed over four Tajik soldiers whom it captured in Afghanistan last year.

Reports of the soldiers' release were first published on June 14 when Qatar's Foreign Ministry said its Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani had intervened to ensure their handover.

A spokesperson for the State Committee for National Security said the soldiers had been released "through the efforts of Tajikistan."

"The border troops are free and have been returned to their parents," the spokesperson said of the four soldiers aged between 18 and 25.

They went missing in December after their unit commander sent them across the border to scavenge for firewood.

The commander was later sentenced to eight-and-a-half years in jail for abusing his position over their disappearance.

The Taliban confirmed their release in a statement on June 16, saying it was in the interests of "strengthening future relations" with Tajikistan.

Based on reporting by AFP and AP