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Family of Lombard man says he was freed by Taliban in swap

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 United States 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.

Mark Frerichs, Navy veteran from Lombard, Illinois.

Negotiations for his launch had centered on a deal that may 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 am so happy to hear that my brother is safe and on his way home to us. Our family has prayed for this each day of the more than 31 months he has been a hostage. We never gave up hope that he would survive and come home 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 in the day to the Taliban in Kabul, in alternate for an American prisoner held in Afghanistan whom he didn’t establish.

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

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

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

“This can be a new chapter between Afghanistan and the United States, this can open a new door for talks between both countries,” Muttaqi stated on the Kabul presser.

“This act shows us that all problems can be solved through talks and I thank both sides’ teams who worked so hard for this to happen,” 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 dwelling. In the video, which marked the primary time Frerichs was seen since his abduction, he says it was filmed final November.

Videos of hostages are generally launched to point out 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.

At 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 confirmation of our family’s long-held belief that he is alive after more than two years in captivity.”

Since their takeover of Afghanistan in August final year, the Taliban have demanded the United States launch Noorzai in alternate for Frerichs amid expectations of such exchanges for U.S. residents held in Afghanistan.

However, there was no public signal of Washington transferring ahead on any type of prisoner commerce or alternate.

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.

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

“I pray for more success of the Taliban,” he added. “I hope this exchange can lead to peace between Afghanistan and America, because an American was released and I am also free now.”

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