WASHINGTON – The Taliban freed two Western hostages, the American Kevin King and the Australian Timothy Weeks, after being detained for more than three years An officer with knowledge of the release said that the professors of the American University of Kabul, who were abducted at gunpoint in August 2016, are now in US hands. Their health was assessed and the two were re-examined, added the official, who was not authorized to talk to the media on this issue.
"We thank all stakeholders who have taken steps to make this happen" Prime Minister Imran Khan said via Twitter . "As part of the international community dedicated to peace and the end of the suffering of the Afghan people, Pakistan has fully supported and facilitated this release as part of its policy of supporting initiatives for a negotiated political settlement of the Afghan conflict."
According to Taliban sources, the two hostages were handed over in Zabul province on the border with Pakistan . The Taliban said that ten Afghan soldiers had also been released.
King, the American hostage, suffered from "serious" and "multiple" health problems, according to a Taliban leader in Zabul province.
Let our messages meet your inbox. The news and stories that mattered were in the morning.
"The American teacher had serious health problems when we passed him on to the US and Afghan officials," he added, speaking of the condition of anonymity because he was not entitled to press.
On November 12, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani announced the release of the two hostages in exchange for three Taliban members.
The Western hostages were released in exchange for Taliban members. Haji Maali Khan and Hafiz Rasheed Ahamd Omari, according to the Taliban.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison also confirmed the release of the professors.
"Tim's family has asked for privacy. You have asked the Australian Government to express its relief that its long ordeal is over, and to thank all those who contributed to Tim's safe return. " he added on Twitter.
The American University of Afghanistan welcomed the news shortly after the announcement.
"The AUAF community shares the relief of the families of Kevin and Timothy, and we look forward to supporting Kevin and Tim and their families as well as possible," the statement said.
The exchange raises hopes Negotiations between the US and the Taliban could resume after President Donald Trump made a potential agreement to withdraw US troops from the country and end the longest American war. Negotiations were terminated on 7 September and it is still unclear if and when they will resume.
"These actions are an advance in goodwill and confidence-building measures that can support the peace process," the Taliban said in a statement Tuesday.
Abigail Williams reports from Washington; Ahmed Mengli reported from Kabul; Mushtaq Yusufzai from Peshawar, Pakistan; and Saphora Smith from London.