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Afghan Taliban may release kidnapped prisoners

25 July, 2019

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The Afghan Taliban on Wednesday said that they were involved in talks on a prisoners’ swap deal and that they could release two professors, one American and one Australian.

Gunmen had kidnapped American Kevin King, 60, and Australian Timothy Weeks, 48, teachers with the American University of Afghanistan in Kabul, near the campus in August 2016.

“We will be giving you good news about the two hostages,” Prime Minister Khan told US President Donald Trump in their meeting at the White House on Monday.

He later told Fox News that Pakistan is playing its part in the possible release of the hostages.

“And I think we’re very close. We hope to give some good news in the next 48 hours,” he said.

Taliban have released two videos of the hostages since they were kidnapped as proof of life of the abductees and to press for demands. The hostages had urged President Trump to negotiate their release with the Taliban.

The hostages had stated in a video released in June 2017 that Taliban demand release of their “soldiers” being held at Bagram air base and Afghanistan’s infamous Pul-e-Charkhi jail in return for freeing the two western professor.

A Taliban official confirmed on Wednesday that negotiations are being held in Qatar for the exchange of the prisoners.

When asked as to when the deal could be announced, he said, “it is possible in coming days.”

It is unclear if Anas Haqqani, the brother of Taliban’s deputy Chief, Siraj Haqqani, will be part in a possible prisoner exchange deal. However, Taliban have been demanding his release in meetings with the Americans.

Anas was captured by the American security officials after he visited Qatar in October 2014. He was accompanied by another Taliban leader, Hafiz Rashid, who had gone to Qatar to meet five Taliban leaders who had been freed from Guantanamo prison.

The two were arrested at Bahrain’s airport and were later handed over to authorities in Afghanistan and were later handed over to the Afghan authorities.

American special envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad, who is leading American negotiators in peace talks with the Taliban in Qatar, has also called for the release of the two professors during the negotiations, according to Taliban officials privy to the discussions.

In October 2017, Pakistani forces had rescued a US-Canadian couple and their three children from the Afghan Taliban in after five years as captives in Afghanistan. The army had stated in a statement that the family members were rescued in Kurram tribal district, when the captors were shifting them to another location.

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