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American held captive in Afghanistan released in prisoner swap

Mark Frerichs, an American held captive in Afghanistan for greater than two years, has been launched in a prisoner swap, a senior Biden administration official confirmed Monday.

“Bringing Mark dwelling has been a prime precedence for President (Joe) Biden and his nationwide safety workforce,” the official mentioned.

Haji Bashir Noorzai, a outstanding member of the Taliban, who was in jail within the US on drug trafficking fees for 17 years, was granted clemency as a part of the deal, the official mentioned.

Mark Frerichs, a US veteran and civilian contractor held for greater than two years in Afghanistan by the Taliban, has been freed as a part of a prisoner swap. (Charlene Cakora through AP) (AP)

Frerichs, a US Navy veteran from Illinois, was kidnapped in late January 2020 whereas he was doing development contract work in Afghanistan.

He was believed to be held by the Haqqani community, which is a faction of the Taliban. He was lacking for lower than a month earlier than the US signed a peace take care of the Taliban.

Frerichs was capable of stroll on his personal onto the plane, a supply acquainted with the matter mentioned, and his bodily and psychological situation seem good. He’s at present in Doha, Qatar.

Frerichs’ household praised Biden for securing his launch, together with his sister, Charlene Cakora, saying in an announcement, “there have been some of us arguing in opposition to the deal that introduced Mark dwelling, however President Biden did what was proper. He saved the lifetime of an harmless American veteran.”

“I’m so glad to listen to that my brother is protected and on his means dwelling to us. Our household has prayed for this every day of the greater than 31 months he has been a hostage,” Cakora mentioned. “We by no means gave up hope that he would survive and are available dwelling safely to us.”

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken welcomed Frerichs’s launch and dedicated to working to free different People “arbitrarily and unjustly” detained overseas.

“Mark’s quickly going to be reunited together with his household,” mentioned Blinken on the UN headquarters in New York. “The President had a possibility to talk to them a number of hours in the past.”

Haji Bashir Noorzai, a member of the Taliban who was jailed within the US on drug trafficking fees, was granted clemency as a part of the deal to free American Mark Frerichs in Afghanistan. (Twitter)

Blinken mentioned the US will “carry the identical willpower and focus” to liberating different People “arbitrarily and unjustly detained” overseas as was performed for Frerichs.

“I need the households of People who’re being arbitrarily detained or held hostage wherever on this planet to know that our dedication to them to bringing their family members house is resolute and we’ll relentlessly proceed to give attention to doing simply that,” Blinken added.

A Taliban spokesman mentioned the swap was secured by way of a constructive “dialogue” with the US.

“Via dialogue, understanding and interplay, the liberty of Haji Bashar and the discharge of an American citizen confirmed that good interplay and goodwill is the best solution to remedy circumstances,” spokesman of Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, Zabihullah Mujahid, tweeted.

“There might be no progress in relations with Afghans by way of power and stress, however quite the opposite understanding can do something.”

Earlier this yr, The New Yorker printed a video of Frerichs pleading for his launch – the primary time he had been seen in years.

FILE - In this Aug. 2, 2021, file photo Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks about refugee programs for Afghans who aided the U.S., during a briefing at the State Department in Washington. (Brendan Smialowski/Pool via AP, File)
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken mentioned the Biden Administration was dedicated to working to free different People “arbitrarily and unjustly” detained overseas. (AP)

“I have been patiently ready my launch,” Frerichs says within the temporary video, which he says is being recorded on November 28, 2021.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken mentioned the Biden Administration was dedicated to working to free different People “arbitrarily and unjustly” detained overseas.

Since her brother’s kidnapping, Cakora has referred to as on the US authorities to do extra to safe his launch, escalating these calls within the lead-up to the US withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2021.

Earlier this yr, the Biden administration secured the discharge of Afghan-American Naval reservist Safi Rauf and his brother Anees Khalil, a US inexperienced card holder, who had been detained by the Taliban since December.

The Biden administration undertook months of negotiations with the Taliban to safe Frerichs’ freedom, a senior administration official mentioned on Monday, and the President determined in June to grant clemency to Noorzai if it might result in the captive American’s launch.

The official mentioned it grew to become clear that releasing Noorzai was “the important thing to securing Mark’s overdue freedom,” however the resolution on clemency for the Afghan drug trafficker was a “tough” one.

The administration doesn’t see an equivalency between Noorzai, who was finishing up a 17-year sentence within the US, and Frerichs. Noorzai was not held at Guantanamo Bay, regardless of reviews saying he was, the official mentioned.

“We consulted with consultants throughout the US authorities, who assessed that Noorzai’s (launch) to Afghanistan wouldn’t materially change any danger to People emanating from the nation or the character of the drug commerce there,” the official mentioned.

Al Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri was killed by a US drone strike in Kabul weeks earlier than the discharge of Mark Frerichs. (AP)

“As we additionally mentioned publicly on the time, we advised the Taliban instantly after the strike, that we’d maintain them instantly accountable if any hurt have been to come back to Mark, and that one of the best ways they may start to rebuild belief with the USA, with the world, was to right away launch Mark,” the official mentioned.

The official mentioned the window of alternative for the swap lastly introduced itself this month, and the administration “acted in a short time.” However they’d not say the place Frerichs had been held throughout his greater than two years of captivity, nor would they are saying if the US had given the Taliban anything for Frerichs’ launch.

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