Taliban Releases U.S. And Australian Hostages Held Since 2016

The Taliban freed two hostages Tuesday who had been held for nearly three years, American, Kevin King, and Australian, Timothy Weeks. The two were captured by members of the Taliban-linked Haggani network in August 2016 when they were driving from Kabul’s American University of Afghanistan, where both had been teaching.

“We are so happy to hear that my brother has been freed and is on his way home to us,” said King’s sister, Stephanie Miller. “This has been a long and painful ordeal for our entire family, and his safe return has been our highest priority. We appreciate the support we have received and ask for privacy as we await Kevin’s safe return.”

Their freedom came hours after the Afghan government released three Taliban prisoners and sent them to Qatar. Anas Haqqani, Taliban’s deputy Sirajuddin Haqqani’s younger brother, Malik Khan, Haqqani’s uncle, and Hafiz Abdul Rashid, a Haqqani lieutenant were released in the exchange.

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan renewed the country’s commitment to “assisting in this peace process” on Twitter Tuesday. Ahead of the release, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani spoke to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. During the call, Pompeo reiterated that the U.S. is “committed to work closely together to address violence if the President’s decision does not produce the intended results,” according to a State Department statement.

“Pakistan welcomes the release of Kevin King and Timothy Weeks in Afghanistan and appreciates the efforts of those who make it possible. Pakistan fully supported the global efforts to bring peace back and end the suffering suffered to the Afghan people and played their part in making this possible as part of its policy of supporting initiatives for a negotiated political settlement of the Afghan conflict,” Khan said on Twitter Tuesday.

“We hope this step gives a boost of confidence to all parties involved to re-engage in the peace process. Pakistan remains committed to facilitating this peace process.”

Last month, after the release of Taliban co-founder and deputy Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, authorities in Pakistan told SaraACarter.com it would accelerated the release of the two hostages.

At the time, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told this news site that the two were “recovering from health issues.” King is now in the hands of U.S. officials on the ground in Afghanistan and is receiving medical care, King’s family said in a statement.