Taliban launch U.S. engineer Frerichs as Biden approves swap for drug smuggler

Taliban launch U.S. engineer Frerichs as Biden approves swap for drug smuggler

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  • Frerichs was kidnapped in 2020 whereas working in Afghanistan
  • In alternate, US releases Taliban determine held for 17 years

KABUL/UNITED NATIONS, Sept 19 (Reuters) – Afghanistan’s Taliban launched US engineer Mark Frerichs on Monday in alternate for Taliban-linked Afghan tribal chief Bashir Noorzai, after President Joe Biden granted clemency to the convicted drug lord who He had been arrested by the US. States since 2005, authorities mentioned.

Frerichs, an engineer kidnapped in 2020 whereas working in Afghanistan, was exchanged at Kabul airport for Noorzai, Appearing Overseas Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi instructed a information convention.

Biden mentioned Frerichs’ launch was the end result of labor by US officers and different governments. His administration has come underneath strain from households of People detained by hostile overseas governments, and Biden says he needs to step up efforts to free him.

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“Bringing to a profitable decision the negotiations that led to Mark’s launch required troublesome choices, which I didn’t make flippantly,” Biden mentioned in a press release, with out confirming Noorzai’s launch.

A senior US administration official, who declined to be recognized, mentioned Biden had granted clemency to Noorzai, who had spent 17 years in US custody.

Noorzai was arrested on prices of smuggling greater than $50 million value of heroin into the US and Europe. He was convicted after a jury trial in New York in September 2008 and sentenced to life in jail in 2009.

Noorzai’s legal professional had denied that his shopper was a drug trafficker, arguing that the fees must be dismissed as a result of US officers misled him into believing he wouldn’t be arrested.

Frerichs is an engineer and US Navy veteran from Lombard, Illinois, who labored in Afghanistan for a decade on improvement tasks. He was kidnapped in February 2020.

Frerichs arrived in Doha on a aircraft from Kabul round 1:30 pm (6:30 am EST) and is in good well being, based on a supply acquainted with his scenario. It was not instantly clear when he would return to the US.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, addressing an occasion on the United Nations in New York, thanked Qatar for its help in securing Frerichs’ launch.

His household welcomed the information and praised Biden’s determination to make the commerce.

“There have been some individuals who had been against the deal that introduced Mark dwelling, however President Biden did the proper factor,” Sister Charlene Cakora mentioned in a press release.


Washington has entered into negotiations with a number of adversaries over the American detainees, together with with Moscow to safe the discharge of basketball star Brittney Griner and former US Marine Paul Whelan in alternate for Russian arms vendor Victor Bout. learn extra

The officers additionally held talks with the Syrian authorities about journalist Austin Tice and with the Venezuelan authorities concerning the detention of People there.

Some critics mentioned the prisoner swaps, which have been carried out by successive US administrations, might encourage hostage-taking, although advocates for the households of the detainees argue there is no such thing as a proof for the declare.

A second US official, who briefed reporters on situation of anonymity, mentioned an govt order signed by Biden in July that launched sanctions particularly for wrongfully detaining US residents would deter nations from doing so.

The normal follow of holding individuals for political ends was “appalling,” however “a truth we have now to take care of,” the official mentioned.


The primary administration official mentioned liberating Frerichs had been a “prime precedence” for Biden even after hardline Islamist Taliban regained energy in Afghanistan in August 2021 as US-led overseas forces had been closing in on him. withdrawing.

US officers had mentioned his case would affect their view of the legitimacy of a Taliban-led authorities. No overseas authorities has formally acknowledged the Taliban, partly as a result of the group restricts the training of most ladies of secondary faculty age.

The second US official mentioned Biden determined in June to permit Noorzai’s launch if the Taliban had been keen to launch Frerichs. That was earlier than the July 31 US drone strike that killed al Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri in Kabul, additional straining relations.

“Instantly after the assault, we instructed the Taliban that we might maintain them instantly accountable if Mark had been to come back to hurt and that the easiest way they may start to rebuild belief with the US, with the world, was to launch Mark instantly.” mentioned the official.

US officers moved to make the swap when a “window of alternative” arrived this month, the official added, with out elaborating.

Afghanistan’s Appearing Overseas Minister Muttaqi mentioned Monday that the Taliban “are prepared to resolve issues by means of negotiation with everybody, together with the US.”

Noorzai briefly addressed the identical press convention: “I’m proud to be within the capital of my nation amongst my brothers.”

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Reporting from Mohammad Yunus Yawar in Kabul, Humeyra Pamuk on the United Nations, and Steve Holland in Washington; Written by Charlotte Greenfield and Simon Lewis; Edited by Toby Chopra, Mark Porter and Grant McCool

Our requirements: the Thomson Reuters Belief Rules.

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