Taliban commanders slated to be swapped for Western hostages arrive in Qatar

WION Web Team New Delhi, India Nov 19, 2019, 01.40 PM(IST) Written By: Bharat Sharma

File photo. Photograph:( AFP )

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The hostages held by the Taliban include an American named Kevin King and an Australian named Timothy Weeks

Three Taliban commanders part of a swap between prisoners for two western hostages have landed in Qatar, Reuters reported today.

This swap can be attributed to the efforts made by Afghan government to conduct direct talks with the Taliban. The latter have always referred to the Afghan government as an illegitimate puppet regime.

The hostages held by the Taliban include an American named Kevin King and an Australian named Timothy Weeks. They're both university professors slated to be released today.

"Our three prisoners had been freed on Monday night," said one of the sources, a senior Taliban leader in Afghanistan, who declined to be identified because he was not authorised to speak publicly about the deal.

"Soon after their release, they were flown to Doha and handed over to the political office in Qatar", the source added.

This swap came in the aftermath of an announcement on November 12 by President Ashraf Ghani. He had said that Afghanistan would free Anas Haqqani, a senior figure in the eponymous Haqqani network responsible for some of the worst violence in recent years, and two Taliban commanders. 

An earlier swap was scheduled but was later cancelled as the Taliban abruptly shifted their hostages to a new location as the commanders were unable to land in Qatar.

The Haqqani network has in recent years carried out large-scale militant attacks on Afghan civilians. It is believed to be based in Pakistan and is part of the Taliban in Afghanistan.

King and Weeks were kidnapped in August 2016 from outside the American University of Afghanistan in Kabul where both worked as professors.

They appeared in a hostage video a year later looking dishevelled and pleading with their governments to secure their release.

There has been no word from the Afghan government as well as the United States embassy in Kabul.

(With inputs from Reuters)