Taliban release U.S. engineer in prisoner swap


Navy veteran Mark Frerichs is no cost right after two and a 50 % many years of captivity in Afghanistan below a prisoner swap personally authorised by President Joe Biden, a senior administration official instructed NBC News.

Soon after months of negotiations with the Taliban, Biden agreed to commute the sentence of an Afghan drug lord, Bashir Noorzai, who put in 17 several years in U.S. custody and was convicted in 2008 of working a key procedure to smuggle heroin into New York Metropolis.

The Taliban introduced the deal overnight and Noorzai appeared at a news meeting in Kabul.

“This is a painful final decision for any president to make,” the administration official explained. “There is just no symmetry at all concerning Mark, who did absolutely almost nothing wrong…and Noorzai, who experienced all the positive aspects of the U.S. authorized technique.”

Early this morning, Biden named Frerichs sister, Charlene Cakora, with the news, the formal stated.

Frerichs, 60, is a civil engineer from Lombard, Illinois who experienced been functioning as a contractor. He is the past U.S. hostage who was on the radar of the Biden White Property right before U.S. troops remaining Afghanistan a year back.

There is no allegation on the general public report that Noorzai killed Individuals, despite the fact that federal prosecutors explained his drug smuggling community did excellent damage. He when controlled a major share of the world’s heroin trade and has been explained as the Asian counterpart to the Colombian cocaine drug lord Pablo Escobar.

Frerichs landed in Doha, Qatar, sometime after 5:30 a.m. EST, right after boarding the identical airplane that delivered Noorzai, the official reported. An original clinical verify in Kabul discovered him to be in good wellness, the official said.

 Frerichs was seized on the streets of Kabul by the Haqqani community in 2020, officers have explained. In recent yrs, it has develop into distinct that the Taliban needed Noorzai’s flexibility as a affliction of releasing the American.

Biden designed the determination to authorize that launch in June, the formal mentioned. He said the U.S. operation to destroy al Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahiri in Kabul in August did not seem to complicate the talks.

Noorzai had been making heroin in Afghanistan for sale in the United States considering that the 1990s, and he aided Taliban leader Mullah Omar just take electrical power, according to Justice Section documents. He lent all over 400 of his fighters to the Taliban in 2001 to fight the Northern Alliance, the Justice Department said at the time of his sentencing.

He was arrested in New York in 2005 immediately after he came to the U.S. below an arrangement in which he considered he was providing information and facts to the U.S. govt, a turn of occasions his legal professionals would later get in touch with a betrayal.

“We are functioning really really hard as a federal government not just to solve current cases, but also to punish, and by punishing, prevent potential cases,” the senior administration official claimed.