The Latest: Taliban say they freed US and Australian hostage

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The Latest on the Afghanistan prisoner swap with the Taliban for American and Australian hostage held by insurgents since 2016 (all instances native):

1:45 p.m.

The Taliban say they have freed two hostages — American Kevin King and Australian Timothy Weeks — in southern Afghanistan, ending greater than three years of their captivity.

A Taliban official says the discharge befell on Tuesday within the province of Zabul within the Now Bahar district, a area that’s largely beneath Taliban management.

It wasn’t instantly identified if the 2 hostages, each professors on the American University of Kabul, had been handed over to Afghan authorities representatives, intermediaries, or U.S. forces.

Their freedom got here hours after the Afghan authorities freed three Taliban prisoners and despatched them to Qatar. The three included Anas Haqqani, the youthful brother of the Taliban’s deputy Sirajuddin Haqqani, who additionally leads the fearsome Haqqani community.

It seems the Taliban had refused at hand over the 2 professors till they obtained proof their males had reached Qatar.

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11:15 a.m.

Three rating Taliban prisoners launched by the Kabul authorities have been flown to Qatar for an anticipated swap for an American and an Australian hostage held by the insurgents since their abduction in 2016, Taliban officers stated Tuesday.

The whereabouts of the 2 hostages — American, Kevin King and Australian Timothy Weeks — was not instantly identified.

The Taliban officers advised The Associated Press that the alternate would seemingly happen on Tuesday. They stated the three of their members arrived within the Gulf Arab state of Qatar on Monday. They spoke on situation of anonymity as a result of they weren’t approved to talk to the media.

The three embody Anas Haqqani, the youthful brother of the Taliban’s deputy, Sirajuddin Haqqani, who additionally heads the fearsome Haqqani community.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani every week in the past introduced the “conditional release” of the Taliban figures, saying at a press occasion broadcast dwell on state tv that it was a really laborious resolution he felt he needed to make within the curiosity of the Afghan individuals.

King and Weeks, the 2 captives held by the Taliban had been kidnapped in 2016 exterior the American University in Kabul the place they each work as lecturers.

The following yr, the Taliban launched two movies displaying the captives. A January 2017 video confirmed them showing pale and gaunt. In the later video, King and Weeks seemed more healthy and stated a deadline for his or her launch was set for June 16 that yr.

Both stated they are being handled effectively by the Taliban however that they stay prisoners and appealed to their governments to assist set them free. It was unimaginable to know whether or not they had been pressured to talk.

Subsequently, U.S. officers stated that American forces had launched a rescue mission to free the 2, however the captives weren’t discovered on the raided location.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and U.S. National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien made separate calls to Ghani on Monday to debate the prisoners’ launch, Ghani’s spokesman Sediq Sediqqi stated.

The launch and swap had been supposed to attempt to restart talks to finish Afghanistan’s 18-year battle and permit for the eventual withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan.

The United States had been near an settlement in September with the Taliban however a recent wave of violence within the Afghan capital that killed a U.S. soldier introduced talks and an impending deal to a grinding halt.

The settlement referred to as for direct talks between the Taliban and Afghan authorities in addition to different outstanding Afghans to discover a negotiated finish to the battle and set out a roadmap for what a submit -war Afghanistan would seem like.

Ghani in his discussions with Pompeo and O’Brien stated he needed a discount in violence and an all-out cease-fire, his spokesman stated.

According to a U.S. State Department assertion Tuesday, Pompeo advised Ghani the United States was “committed to work closely together to address violence if the President’s decision does not produce the intended results.”

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Associated Press author Tameem Akhgar in Kabul, Afghanistan, contributed to this report.

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