American Held Hostage by Taliban Since 2020 Is Released in Prisoner Swap After Negotiations

Mark Frerichs, a U.S. Navy veteran and civilian contractor, was abducted and held hostage in Afghanistan for over two years. He was released in exchange for Taliban official Bashir Noorzai.

An American contractor who had been held hostage by the Taliban in Afghanistan since 2020 has been released after a negotiation, according to a statement from President Joe Biden.

Mark Frerichs, a U.S. Navy veteran and civilian contractor, was abducted two years ago in Kabul where it was believed he was held captive by the Taliban-linked Haqqani network, according to The Washington Post.

Frerichs was released in a prisoner swap for a Taliban drug lord Bashir Noorzai, who had been held in U.S. government custody for 17 years.

“His release is the culmination of years of tireless work by dedicated public servants across our government and other partner governments, and I want to thank them for all that effort,” Biden said in a statement.

​​Frerichs’ sister, Charlene Cakora, of Lombard, Illinois, had been in communication with the Biden administration and was thankful for the release of her brother. ​Cakora s​aid in a statement, “I am so happy to hear that my brother is safe and on his way home to us. Our family has prayed for this each day of the more than 31 months he has been a hostage. We never gave up hope that he would survive and come home safely to us,” according to the New York Post. 

Noorzai was serving a life sentence after being convicted in 2005 of smuggling $50 million worth of heroin from Afghanistan and Pakistan into the U.S. 

Biden said the decision to release Noorzai in exchange for Frerichs was “difficult,” according to the statement. 

Noorzai told reporters in Kabul that he had been released from an unspecified prison in the U.S. However, other Taliban officials said he had been held at a detention facility in Guantanamo Bay.  

According to The Washington Post, negotiations about Frerichs​’ release ​had been part of the ongoing conversations between the U.S. and Taliban officials in Qatar, revolving around removing American troops from Afghanistan.

Amir Khan Muttaqi, the Taliban’s acting foreign minister, said at a news conference that the swap of the two men happened at the airport in Kabul, the New York Post reported. Muttaqi said during the press conference in Kabul that the prisoner exchange marked a “new era” in relations with the U.S., according to the outlet. 

“This can be a new chapter between Afghanistan and the United States, this can open a new door for talks between both countries,” Muttaqi said. “This act shows us that all problems can be solved through talks and I thank both sides’ teams who worked so hard for this to happen."

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