Afghanistan: exchange of prisoners between the United States and the Taliban

The Taliban on Monday handed over to the United States Mark Frerichs, a US Navy veteran detained for more than two years, in exchange for the release of a key member of the Taliban regime, Bashir Noorzai, the foreign minister said. Taliban.

US President Joe Biden later confirmed Mark Frerichs’ release: “The successful negotiations leading to Mark’s release required difficult decisions, which I did not take lightly.” The US Navy veteran was working as a civil engineer on construction projects in Afghanistan when he was taken hostage, according to the US State Department.

Bashir Noorzai, an Afghan warlord and Taliban member imprisoned for life in the United States for heroin trafficking, arrived in Kabul on Sunday evening, several Afghan government officials said. A close collaborator of the late Mullah Omar, mythical founder of the Taliban, Bashar Noorzai fought the Soviet occupation with the mujahideen forces supported by the United States. During his trial, US prosecutors said he ran a “global narcotics network” and supported the first Taliban regime between 1996 and 2001.

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Government spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid explained that Bashir Noorzai did not hold an official position within the Taliban, but that he had “provided significant support, including weapons”, during the emergence of the Taliban. movement in the 1990s. “If the EIA (Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan) had not shown its strong determination, I would not be here today,” Bashar Noorzai told reporters when he arrived in Kabul. And to add: “My release in exchange for an American will be a source of peace between Afghanistan and the Americans. »

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