US, Afghanistan carry out prisoner exchange
The United States and the Taliban have completed a prisoner swap, Afghanistan's foreign minister said on Monday, with an American navy veteran traded for a key ally.
Afghanistan's Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi said Mark Frerichs — kidnapped in 2020 — was exchanged for Bashar Noorzai, a warlord and Taliban associate imprisoned for 17 years in the United States for heroin smuggling.
"Today, Mark Frerichs was handed over to the US and Haji Bashar was handed over to us at Kabul airport," Muttaqi told reporters in Kabul.
He said the exchange happened "after long negotiations", adding that Frerichs was given to a US delegation.
The US Navy veteran was working in Afghanistan as a civil engineer on construction projects when he was kidnapped, the US State Department said.
Government spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told the media on Monday that Noorzai held no official position in the Taliban but "provided strong support including weapons" as the hardline Islamist movement emerged in the 1990s.