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US says release of 'dangerous' prisoners in Afghanistan to begin within 24 hours

An Afghan policeman stands guard at a temporary checkpoint as a man on a motorcycle rides past an election poster of presidential candidate, Mohammad Shafiq Gul Agha Sherzai, center, in Kandahar, south of Kabul, Afghanistan, Sunday, Feb. 9, 2014. (AP Photo/Allauddin Khan)

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An Afghan policeman stands guard at a temporary checkpoint as a man on a motorcycle rides past an election poster of presidential candidate, Mohammad Shafiq Gul Agha Sherzai, center, in Kandahar, south of Kabul, Afghanistan, Sunday, Feb. 9, 2014. (AP Photo/Allauddin Khan)

KABUL - The Afghan government plans within 24 hours to start releasing from a former American detention facility a group of 65 inmates that the U.S considers highly dangerous, the NATO-led coalition said late Wednesday.

U.S. forces in Afghanistan have repeatedly registered strong concerns about releasing the detainees, who it says have the blood of international and Afghan soldiers on their hands — plus strong evidence against them, from DNA linking them to roadside bombs to explosive residue on their clothing.

When President Hamid Karzai ordered their release several weeks ago from the Parwan Detention Facility, it prompted angry denunciations from the U.S. and strained relations between the two countries ahead of the year-end withdrawal of most international combat troops.

The international coalition on Wednesday issued the latest in a string of statements condemning the release, which it said would begin early Thursday morning and include detainees directly linked to attacks that have killed or wounded 32 U.S. or coalition personnel and 23 Afghan security personnel or civilians.

The U.S. has stressed it wants the detainees to face trial in Afghanistan, but Kabul has cited insufficient proof to hold them — despite U.S. claims it has strong evidence against the prisoners.

Karzai, too, has referred to the Parwan Detention Facility as a "Taliban-producing factory" where innocent Afghans are tortured into hating their country.

Among those expected to walk free Thursday morning are Mohammad Wali, who the U.S. military says is a suspected Taliban explosives expert who allegedly placed roadside bombs targeting Afghan and international forces. The military said Wali had been biometrically linked to two roadside explosions and had a latent fingerprint match on another improvised explosive device — plus tested positive for explosives residue.

Others in the group include Nek Mohammad — who the U.S. says was captured with extensive weapons, and a man identified as Ehsanullah, who is claimed to have been biometrically matched to a roadside bomb and tested positive for explosive residue.

The U.S. military had formally disputed the prisoners' release, but an Afghan review board had effectively overruled those challenges.

The detainees' release has been in the works for weeks, and comes as Karzai's government has taken an increasingly hostile tone towards the U.S. ahead of the withdrawal of NATO combat troops at the end of 2014.

Elsewhere in Afghanistan on Wednesday, two international troops and two Afghan service members were killed in an apparent insider attack, according to officials.

The NATO-led force confirmed the deaths of its service members, saying they were killed by two men in Afghan uniforms. The coalition gave no further information, saying there would be an investigation.

A senior Afghan military official meanwhile said two Afghan army personnel were killed in the incident, which came after a heated dispute on a base in the east of the country. The official but had no further information, saying a joint NATO-Afghan team had been dispatched to investigate. He added that several other personnel were wounded in the incident in an Afghan base in the Pagab district of Kapisa province, east of Kabul.

He could not be identified because he was not authorized to release the information.

Insider attacks in the past have been claimed by Taliban insurgents as proof they can infiltrate Afghanistan's Western-trained security forces. Other cases have involved personal quarrels between Afghan forces and their trainers.

The Taliban earlier Wednesday issued a statement claiming that a "battle" between Afghan forces and foreign trainers had resulted in several deaths and injuries, but the insurgents did not claim its infiltrators were responsible.

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