Haji Bashir Noorzai, an ally of the Taliban, imprisoned in the world’s most infamous prisons, has been released in exchange for the release of a US citizen. Noorzai was in US captivity for more than a decade and a half. According to Afghan state media, Noorzai, a member of the Taliban, was among the last prisoners to be held at Guantanamo Bay prison.
In January of 2020, the Taliban kidnapped a US civil contractor Mark Frericks, who was released by the Taliban in exchange for Haji Bashir Noorzai. Noorzai was once the commander of the Taliban. He used to smuggle heroin to finance the operations of jihadist groups. He was sentenced to life imprisonment in the year 2009. He spent 17 years, six months in a US prison. Taliban Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaki welcomed the swap with Noorzai, saying it marked a “new era” in US-Taliban relations.
Frerix was last seen in a video earlier this year in which he is seen pleading for his release so that he can be reunited with his family. This video was shared by The New Yorker Magazine. However, there has been no independent confirmation of Frerix’s release, nor has the US said anything about it.
Muttaki said in Kabul, ‘This is a new chapter between Afghanistan and America. It can open new doors between the two countries. He said, ‘It shows that all problems can be resolved through dialogue and I thank the team on both sides who worked hard to get to this point.’
He is a resident of Illinois and is believed to have been taken hostage by the Taliban affiliated with the Haqqani network. US officials tried to get him released, but they failed. In the video in which Freriks appeared for the first time after the kidnapping, he told that it was recorded in November last year.
After the video was released, the FBI declined to comment on its authenticity, but Freriks sister, Charlene Cikora, issued a statement thanking the Taliban for the video. The Taliban also released a video on social media on Monday showing Noorzai being received by top Taliban officials, including Muttaki, when he arrived at Kabul airport.
What did Noorzai say after reaching Kabul?
Referring to the Taliban in Kabul, Noorzai said she was happy to see the ‘Mujahideen brothers’. He said, ‘I wish the Taliban more success. I hope this exchange of prisoners will lead to peace between Afghanistan and America because the American has been released and now I am free.