Afghan government has released a group of 80 Taliban prisoners out of 400, whose release was delayed despite signing of a decree by President Ashraf Ghani this week, Afghan officials said on Friday. A Taliban official earlier told Daily Times that 86 Taliban prisoners were freed Thursday evening from Pul-i-Charkhi prison that ended a stalemate over the release of 400 Taliban prisoners. The office of the National Security Council said the government released 80 Taliban convicts out of the 400 that the Consultative Loya Jirga sanctioned for release to speed up efforts for direct talks and a lasting nationwide ceasefire. The first group of the Taliban prisoners, whom the Afghan officials had described as dangerous, was released quietly on Thursday and their release was confirmed later by the officials. Taliban had warned that a group of Daesh gunmen “in coordination and cooperation with Kabul administration intelligence, some military personnel and prison check post commanders plan to conduct an attack against vehicles that are to transfer the remaining released prisoners.” Afghan officials had dismissed the Taliban concerns as propaganda. Taliban said on Friday that a recently freed Taliban prisoner Qari Najam ul Haq was shot dead in Kabul along with his cousin in a firing incident. The Taliban social media handlers blamed the Afghan intelligence for the attack. As release of 400 Taliban prisoners was delayed, the intra-Afghan negotiations were also delayed as there was no change in the Taliban stance on the prisoners, who demand release of 5,000 prisoners under the Taliban-US agreement signed in February. Reports suggested that the Afghan government’s delegation was also planned to proceed to Doha from Kabul either on Wednesday or Thursday in a special Qatari plane, but they could not depart as mystery shrouds the release of Taliban prisoners. Afghan sources say a few western nations have opposed the release of several prisoners, blamed for killing of their nationals or attacks on their diplomatic missions. They say Afghan government also wants the Taliban to release dozens of security personnel still under the Taliban’s custody. Taliban political spokesman Suhail Shaheen says Taliban have freed over 1,000 government’s prisoners under the agreement with the US. With the release of 85 Taliban prisoners, the process to release 400 Taliban have started that will end the stalemate over the remaining prisoners. The start of intra-Afghan negotiations is linked to the release of all 5,000 prisoners under the US-Taliban agreement signed in February. Afghan state TV had reported that the talks could start on Aug 16. However, the talks would be delayed until the remaining prisoners are released. Afghanistan’s former spy chief Masoom Stanekzai will lead a 21-member team nominated by the Afghan government. Sher Abbas Stanekzai, the Taliban chief negotiator, will head a 20-member Taliban team in the intra-Afghan dialogue, according to the Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen. The intra-Afghan dialogue was originally scheduled to kick off on March 10 in accordance with the Taliban-US agreement signed in late February. However, the process was delayed after President Ghani had refused to release the Taliban prisoners unconditionally. The government later started releasing the Taliban prisoners due to the US pressure as Americans had serious concerns that delay in the negotiations among Afghans could harm the peace process. A Taliban leader told Daily Times that delegates of both sides will have introductions in the first session and will also exchange suggestions to discuss agenda for the negotiations. Section of the Afghan media had earlier reported 400 prisoners were scheduled to be freed on Wednesday. But the government delayed their release.