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Two AUAF professors handed to US forces in Zabul

AT Monitoring Desk

KABUL: The Taliban freed two Westerners they had held for more than three years on Tuesday, in exchange for the release of three senior members of the Haqqani network, the New York Times reported. 

Sources told TOLOnews that the handover took place in Zabul province. Kevin King, 63, from the US, and Timothy Weeks, 50, from Australia, were professors at AUAF who were abducted by the Haqqani Network in Kabul in August 2016.

In accordance with a public statement by President Ghani last week, in which he described the prisoner swap as a gesture to restart the peace talks, the professors were freed in exchange for the release of Anas Haqqani, Hafiz Rasheed and Mali Khan, three Haqqani Network commanders who were captured outside of Afghanistan in 2014.

This comes as the three Haqqani prisoners were released from Bagram prison on Monday evening and flown to Doha, but will remain under ‘house arrest’ there, according to sources. 

On Monday President Ghani spoke with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and US National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien, in two separate phone calls, to “review the steps necessary to release three Haqqani prisoners” and they agreed that “a ceasefire and/or reduction of violence was necessary to begin intra-Afghan negotiations,” the Presidential Palace said in a series of tweets.

The US officials reiterated their support for President Ghani’s decision and committed to work closely together to respond to any possible Taliban violence in the event the group doesn’t respond in good faith, the Palace said.

The Palace said the two sides agreed that a ceasefire and/or a reduction in violence was a necessary pre-condition for kick-starting the intra-Afghan negotiations to reach a political settlement.

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