September 27, 2022

WASHINGTON (AP) — An American contractor held hostage in Afghanistan for greater than two years by the Taliban has been launched, his household stated Monday, as a Taliban drug lord jailed by the USA was additionally freed and returned to Kabul.

Mark Frerichs, a Navy veteran who had spent greater than a decade in Afghanistan as a civilian contractor, was kidnapped in January 2020 and was believed to have been since then by the Taliban-linked Haqqani community.

Negotiations for his launch had centered on a deal that will additionally contain the discharge of Bashir Noorzai, a infamous drug lord and member of the Taliban who instructed reporters in Kabul on Monday that he spent 17 years and 6 months in U.S. captivity

The Biden administration didn’t instantly affirm particulars of the prisoner swap, however a sister of Frerichs, who’s from Lombard, Illinois, thanked U.S. authorities officers who helped safe her brother’s launch.

“I’m so joyful to listen to that my brother is secure and on his manner residence to us. Our household has prayed for this every day of the greater than 31 months he has been a hostage. We by no means gave up hope that he would survive and are available residence safely to us,” stated an announcement from the sister, Charlene Cakora.

In Afghanistan, Noorzai instructed reporters at a press convention that he had been launched from an unspecified U.S. jail and handed over earlier within the day to the Taliban in Kabul, in change for an American prisoner held in Afghanistan whom he didn’t establish.

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Different Taliban officers claimed Noorzai was held on the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, however didn’t provide to say something to help that declare.

The Taliban-appointed international minister, Amir Khan Muttaqi, additionally spoke on the press convention alongside Noorzai and welcomed the change, saying it marked the beginning of a “new period” in U.S.-Taliban relations.

Frerichs, kidnapped on Jan. 31, 2020, was final seen in a video distributed earlier this 12 months, pleading for his launch in order that he might be reunited along with his household, in keeping with a recording posted by The New Yorker journal on the time.

“This generally is a new chapter between Afghanistan and the USA, this could open a brand new door for talks between each international locations,” Muttaqi stated on the Kabul presser.

“This act exhibits us that each one issues might be solved by means of talks and I thank either side’ groups who labored so arduous for this to occur,” Muttaqi added.

Frerichs, of Lombard, Illinois, was believed to be held by the Taliban-affiliated Haqqani community, and U.S. officers throughout two presidential administrations had tried unsuccessfully to get him residence. Within the video, which marked the primary time Frerichs was seen since his abduction, he says it was filmed final November.

Movies of hostages are typically launched to indicate proof that they’re alive and to facilitate negotiations for a launch, although it was not instantly clear if that was the case right here. The New Yorker stated it obtained the clip from an unidentified particular person in Afghanistan.

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On the time, the FBI declined to touch upon the video’s authenticity, however a sister of Frerichs, Charlene Cakora, issued an announcement thanking the Taliban for releasing the video and describing it as “public affirmation of our household’s long-held perception that he’s alive after greater than two years in captivity.”

Since their takeover of Afghanistan in August final 12 months, the Taliban have demanded the USA launch Noorzai in change for Frerichs amid expectations of such exchanges for U.S. residents held in Afghanistan.

Nevertheless, there was no public signal of Washington transferring ahead on any kind of prisoner commerce or change.

The Taliban additionally posted a quick video Monday on social media exhibiting Noorzai’s arrival on the Kabul airport the place he was welcomed by prime Taliban officers, together with Muttaqi.

On the press convention, Noorzai expressed thankfulness at seeing his “mujahedeen brothers” — a reference to the Taliban — in Kabul.

“I pray for extra success of the Taliban,” he added. “I hope this change can result in peace between Afghanistan and America, as a result of an American was launched and I’m additionally free now.”