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Passengers released without prisoners swap, ransom: President

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President-Ghani-3President Ashraf Ghani on Monday insisted neither ransom was paid nor there was any prisoner swap following the release of 19 passengers.

Nineteen of 31 passengers who were kidnapped by masked gunmen in late February in southern Zabul province were Monday released by their captors, a public representative said. Atta Jan Haq Bayan, the provincial council head, told Pajhwok Afghan News the passengers were set free this morning, ending a two-month ordeal. The president expressed this while talking to journalists at Presidential Palace.

The released men are in Ghazni and they could not be shifted to Kabul because of bad weather. Bayan, the provincial council head, told Pajhwok Afghan News the passengers were set free this morning, ending a two-month ordeal. He

said the 19 passengers were released in Jaghori district of southern Ghazni province. The Taliban have not yet commented on the issue. Bayan said efforts were underway to secure release of the remaining passengers.

Hassan Reza Yusufi, a member of the Ghazni provincial council, also confirmed the release of 19 passengers, saying they were released thanks to efforts by local elders in Jaghori and Gelan districts.

The men were kidnapped from passenger buses on Feb 23 on the road between Kabul and western Herat province in the Shahjoy district of southern Zabul province, with suspicions falling on the self-styled Islamic State group.