Mon, 02 Oct 2023

Kabul [Afghanistan], September 19 (ANI): US Navy veteran Mark Frerichs, who was taken hostage in Afghanistan, was released by the Taliban after more than two years, according to media reports citing a spokesman.

Earlier in the year, the US had raised concerns over the release of Mark Frerichs.

Afghanistan's acting Foreign Minister, Amir Khan Muttaqi on Monday confirmed that the Taliban has freed an American prisoner in return for a Taliban leader in a prisoner swap between the two countries.

"Today, Mark Frerichs was handed over to the US and Haji Bashar was handed over to us at Kabul airport," Muttaqi said while speaking to reporters in Kabul, as per Al Jazeera.

He said the exchange happened "after long negotiations", adding that Frerichs was given to a US delegation.

The US navy veteran was working in Afghanistan as a civil engineer on construction projects when he was kidnapped, according to the US State Department. He was last seen in a video earlier this year, pleading for his release so that he can be reunited with his family, according to a recording posted by The New Yorker magazine at the time.

Meanwhile, Haji Bashir Noorzai a senior member of the Taliban arrived in Kabul today.

Noorzai contacted American troops in Afghanistan after 2001 and travelled to the US. While Noorzai was in New York in 2005 he was arrested, and sentenced to life in prison by a US court.

"Honorable Haji Bashir was released after two decades of imprisonment and arrived in Kabul today," Mohammad Naeem, Islamic Emirate's Qatar-based political office spokesman, said in a tweet.

The US Treasury Department said it would transfer USD 3.5 billion in Afghan central bank assets into a new Swiss-based trust fund that will be shielded from the Islamic Emirate and used to help stabilize Afghanistan's collapsed economy.

The new Afghan Fund, based in Geneva, will not provide humanitarian assistance but will be put in charge of core central bank functions such as paying Afghanistan's international arrears and electricity imports -- and potentially for necessities such as printing currency. (ANI)

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