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Pakistan frees leading Afghan Taliban official

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – Pakistan on Saturday released from prison the former No. 2 leader of the Afghan Taliban, a man Afghanistan leaders believe could nudge militants to the bargaining table to help foster a political solution after more than a decade of war.

The release of Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, reportedly captured in a joint Pakistan-CIA raid in Karachi in 2010, had been repeatedly urged by Kabul, which is hoping to stir new life into peace efforts as foreign combat troops prepare to finish withdrawing from Afghanistan late next year.

“We believe that his release will help the Afghan peace process,” said Aimal Faizy, spokesman for Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

Pakistani Foreign Office spokesman Aizaz Chaudhry said Baradar’s release was an effort by Pakistan to facilitate the Afghan reconciliation process. But some analysts question whether this will provide the breakthrough Kabul wants.

Meanwhile on Saturday, three NATO troops were killed in Afghanistan’s eastern Paktia province by an armed man wearing an Afghan army uniform, according to international coalition and Afghan defense officials.

In keeping with coalition policy, the nationality of the troops and attack details were not immediately available.

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