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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Tajik Sides Swap Prisoners of War

DUSHANBE, Tajikistan -- Tajik government forces and Islamic rebels exchanged seven prisoners each Friday, in the first such swap since a UN-backed peace deal was signed last month, officials said in Dushanbe.

UN observers monitored the prisoner swap in Childara village, 140 kilometers east of the capital, Dushanbe, the Interior Ministry said.

"This is a very important political gesture of goodwill on both sides," said Gerd-Dietrich Merrem, head of the UN mission in Tajikistan.

"The process of exchanging POWs will continue in Childara on Saturday, when we expect both sides to hand over 43 prisoners each," he added.

The prisoner swap came just a day after a first group of 275 Tajik civilian refugees returned home from neighboring Afghanistan, in line with the peace accord. It was the largest group of refugees to cross the border in the past four years, said a Tajik refugee official.