Taliban freed from Guantanamo, claims exchanged with Americans

Taliban freed from Guantanamo, claims exchanged with Americans

Islamabad (AP) — A senior Taliban detainee held for years at Guantanamo Bay said Monday he was released and surrendered earlier in the day to the Taliban in Kabul in exchange for an American detainee in Afghanistan.

Bashir Nurzai, a notorious drug lord and member of the Taliban, told reporters in Kabul that he spent 17 years and six months at the US detention center at Guantanamo Bay and was the last Taliban prisoner there.

Taliban-appointed foreign minister Amir Khan Muttaqi also spoke at the news conference alongside Noorzai and hailed the exchange, saying it marked the start of a “new era” in US-Taliban relations.

Muttaqi said the freed American was Mark Frerichs, a Navy veteran and civilian contractor who was kidnapped in Afghanistan on January 31, 2020. He was last seen in a video distributed earlier this year, calling for his release so he could to be reunited with his family, according to a recording posted by The New Yorker magazine at the time.

There has been no independent confirmation or word from Washington on Frerichs’ release.

“This can be a new chapter between Afghanistan and the United States, this can open a new door for talks between the two countries,” Muttaqi told the Kabul press.

“This act shows us that all problems can be solved through talks and I thank both groups for working so hard to make this happen,” Muttaqi added.

Frerichs, of Lombard, Illinois, is believed to be being held by the Taliban-linked Haqqani network, and US officials in two presidential administrations have tried unsuccessfully to bring him home. In the video, which marked the first time Frerichs has appeared since his abduction, he said it was filmed last November.

Since taking over Afghanistan in August last year, the Taliban have asked the United States to release Noorzai in exchange for the Frerichs, amid expectations of such exchanges for American citizens held in Afghanistan.

However, there has been no indication that Washington is pursuing any kind of trade or prisoner exchange.

The Taliban also released a short video on Monday on social media showing Nurzai’s arrival at Kabul airport, where he was greeted by top Taliban officials, including Mutaki.

At the press conference, Nurzai expressed his gratitude to see the “mujahideen brothers” – a reference to the Taliban – in Kabul.

“I pray for more success for 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.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.