Taliban Swap Kidnapped Western Professors for Three Jihadis


King and Weeks were kidnapped in Kabul in August 2016 as they were leaving the American University of Afghanistan where they taught.

"Our three prisoners had been freed on Monday night", said one of the sources, a senior Taliban leader in Afghanistan, who declined to be identified because he was not authorised to speak publicly about the deal.

By releasing two Westerners and 10 members of the Afghan security force, the Taliban are delivering captives that do not have the same strategic or security value as the three Taliban figures.

The American University of Afghanistan welcomed news of the release of their professors, American Kevin King and Australian Timothy Weeks, freed after more than three years in a swap for three high ranking Taliban.

The swap includes Anas Haqqani, a leading figure and fund-raiser in the Haqqani militant group, and two other senior commanders, who had been held in prison by Afghan authorities.

Kabul:Afghanistan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani held separate telephone talks with the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien and exchanged views on the release of Haqqani leaders, Presidential Palace said in a statement on Tuesday.

The American University of Afghanistan said in a statement last week that it was "encouraged to hear reports of the possible release of our two colleagues".

The militants welcomed the release of the commanders as a positive step.

The PM said, "We hope this step gives a boost of confidence to all parties involved to re-engage in the peace process". Pakistan wields some influence over the Taliban and has played a behind-the-scenes role in trying to restart peace talks.

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Just last week, Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani said the decision was "a tough, but important" one and one he had to make in the interest of the Afghan people.

Anas Haqqani's older brother, Sirajuddin, leads the Haqqani network of fighters and is a deputy leader of the Taliban, which has a political office in Qatar.

Both men seemed unwell in the emotional 13-minute video, where they pleaded for the US government to negotiate a prisoner swap to win them their freedom.

Criminal kidnappings are relatively common in Kabul, where gangs often pass abductees to the Taliban, which then uses them as bargaining chips.

U.S. officials subsequently said American forces had launched a rescue mission but the captives were not found at the raided location.

The premier expressed hopes for better outcome of ongoing efforts of the worldwide community to bring peace in Afghanistan which will end the suffering of Afghan people.

President Ghani said that the pair had been "deteriorating while in the custody of the terrorists".

In accordance to a U.S. State Part assertion Tuesday, Pompeo knowledgeable Ghani america was "committed to operate carefully together to tackle violence if the President's determination does not generate the supposed final results".