Afghan Taliban Swap Western Hostages for Top Militants

The Afghan Taliban released an American and an Australian hostage on Tuesday after the Afghan government freed three imprisoned Taliban officers hours before.

American Kevin King and Australian Timothy Weeks were released three years after being kidnapped outside the American University of Afghanistan in Kabul where they worked as professors.

Afghanistan released the three militants on Monday night, a Taliban official confirmed. They arrived in Qatar on Tuesday morning. Qatar is home to the Taliban’s Afghan leadership.

Among the Taliban officers released is the younger brother of Sirajuddin Haqqani, deputy head of the Taliban and leader of the feared Haqqani Network, known for its large-scale attacks on  Afghan civilians.

Afghan officials say the deal is aimed at restarting talks with the Taliban. However, it is unclear if they have been handed over yet to the Taliban.

Kabul hopes the exchange will help rekindle peace talks with the militant group. Afghanistan has been plagued by an 18-year war between the Taliban and the state that triggered a multinational intervention led by US forces.

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