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Prisoners line up at the Pul-e Charkhi prison after their release in Kabul on January 11.

Afghan officials say the country’s president has issued pardons to 75 prisoners loyal to Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a warlord who signed a peace deal with the Kabul government in 2016.

The 75 pardoned convicts were released on January 11 from the Pul-e-Charkhi prison east of Kabul, prison press officer Shah Mir Amirpoor said.

Under the 2016 agreement, President Ashraf Ghani agreed to release the followers of Hekmatyar in an effort to encourage insurgent groups to lay down their arms.

The release has been delayed for months. Human rights groups criticized Kabul for agreeing to the move that allowed prisoners suspected of being involved in attacks on civilians to go free.

An initial group of 55 prisoners were released in May 2017.

Hekmatyar battled U.S. and Afghan forces after the U.S. invasion in 2001 and was known as the "Butcher of Kabul" for actions during the country’s civil war of the 1990s.

The deal gave him and his followers immunity for past deeds and gave them full political rights.

The United Nations in 2017 removed Hekmatyar’s name from its sanctions list.

Nadir Afghan, a spokesman for Hekmatyar's Hizb-i Islami party, claims that more than 2,200 party members remain in jail in Afghanistan.

Other warlords have been reluctant to sign on to the deal offered by Ghani.

With reporting by AP and Tolo News
Authorities regularly remove the makeshift memorial. 

Moscow authorities have once again removed an improvised memorial near the Kremlin where Russian opposition politician Boris Nemtsov was gunned down in 2015.

The website OVD-Info, which tracks arrests in Russia, said on January 11 that representatives of Moscow's directorate for bridges, Gormost, and several men in civilian clothes took flowers and posters commemorating Nemtsov away from the bridge overnight.

According to OVD-Info, the men also seized backpacks containing documents, cash, and credit cards from two activists, Dmitry Kosachyov and Olga Avilonova, who were guarding the makeshift memorial.

Avilonova said she was physically assaulted by the men.

Nemtsov, a vocal critic of President Vladimir Putin, was fatally shot on the Bolshoi Moskvoretsky Bridge on February 27, 2015.

Authorities regularly remove the makeshift memorial.

In May, an activist who was attacked while guarding the memorial died in the hospital.

Five suspects from Russia's North Caucasus region are being tried for Nemtsov's killing, but relatives and supporters believe those who carried out the contract-style killing were following orders from someone higher up.

The latest removal of the memorial came a day after the Washington, D.C., city council advanced plans to rename the street in front of the Russian Embassy to the United States after Nemtsov.

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