Taliban frees 235 villagers in northern Afghanistan

An Afghan official says the Taliban have released 235 civilians held since insurgents seized control of an area in northern Sari Pul province five days ago.

Zabi Amani, spokesman for the provincial governor, said Wednesday the civilians were released after negotiations between the Taliban and tribal elders. The insurgents were still holding an unknown number of civilians, he said.

Fifty-two civilians including women and children have been killed by the insurgents in Mirzawalang in Sayad district since insurgents took control of the area, Amani said.

Qari Yusouf Ahmadi, a Taliban spokesman, claimed responsibility for seizing the area, but he denied that civilians were killed in Mirzawalang.

Soon, Afghan security forces will begin an operation to retake the area, Amani added.