The Taliban said they exchanged American engineer Mark Frerich to free a senior Taliban figure from the US on Monday.
“Today, Mark Frerich was handed over to the US and Haji Bashir was handed over to us at Kabul airport,” Taliban Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaki told a news conference in the Afghan capital. Muttaki said the exchange took place “after a long conversation”.
Hours after the Taliban statement, Freirich’s family confirmed that he had been released.
The US Navy veteran was working as a civil engineer on construction projects in Afghanistan when he was taken hostage in January 2020.
The US has been pushing for Frerich’s release since the Taliban took over Afghanistan.
President Joe Biden, who is in the UK to attend Queen Elizabeth’s funeral, called on Freirich’s family on Monday morning to share the “good news” that his administration was able to secure his release, a senior official said. according.
One of Frerich’s sisters, who is from Lombard, Illinois, thanked US government officials who helped secure her brother’s release.
“I am overjoyed to hear that my brother is safe and is on his way home. Our family has prayed that he is held hostage every day for more than 31 months. We never gave up hope that he would survive and come home to us safely,” said Charlene Kakora.
Taliban drug kingpin Haji Bashir Noorzai, an Afghan tribal leader, was arrested in 2005 and charged with smuggling more than $50 million worth of heroin into the United States.
He was convicted of conspiracy to commit heroin import and distribution and sentenced to life imprisonment.
Noorzai briefly addressed a press conference with Muttaki at a hotel in Kabul. “I am proud to be among my brothers in the capital of my country,” he said.
Doha-based Taliban spokesman Mohammad Naeem posted a picture of himself in Kabul.
محترم اجي محمد ر له دوو لسیزو ند ورسته ازاد او نن ابل را ورسید pic.twitter.com/XA1ntqQ6VP
— Dr.M.Naeem (@IeaOffice) September 19, 2022
Another Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, told AFP news agency that Noorzai had no official position in the Taliban, but “provided strong support, including weapons” as a radical Islamist movement in the 1990s.