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Afghanistan Releases 49 Pakistani Prisoners - 2004-01-15

In a goodwill gesture, Afghanistan has released 49 Pakistanis from its prisons, responding to a similar move earlier this month by Pakistan. Most of those released for repatriation to Pakistan Thursday fought alongside Afghanistan's former Taleban regime, which was ousted in a war in 2001.

Other Pakistanis freed included illegal migrants seeking work on internationally funded reconstruction projects in Afghanistan.

Islamabad says over 500 Pakistanis are still in Afghan jails.

The release, ordered by President Hamid Karzai, comes in response to Pakistan's freeing of almost 150 Afghan prisoners earlier this month.

The two neighboring countries have seen greatly improved relations over recent months, following a period of strained ties - mostly over border disputes. The tensions culminated in the middle of last year when an Afghan mob sacked the Pakistani embassy in Kabul.