ISLAMABAD: The Afghan Taliban said it has freed three Indian engineers held hostage for over a year in an exchange for securing the release of 11 of its members, including some high-ranking officials of the militant group, according to a media report on Monday.
The much-awaited release following an ice-breaking meeting between Afghan Taliban and US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad in Islamabad, an India Today report said.
Quoting sources, the India Today report said that Khalilzad had asked the Taliban to release at least five foreign prisoners including three Indian engineers, one American and one Australian national in exchange for release of the Taliban leaders and members.
The release of Indian engineers is yet to be confirmed by the Afghan authorities. Sources say that the Indian engineers may be in the custody of the US forces and may be handed over to the Afghan authorities in the coming hours for the return.
The Afghan Taliban have confirmed that it has freed at least three Indian hostages in exchange for the release of at least 11 Taliban members, who included prominent leaders Sheikh Abdul Rahim and Maulvi Abdur Rashid. The Taliban officials provided a photo and footage of what they said was the freed militants being greeted after their release.
Both these Taliban leaders have served as governors of Kunar and Nimroz provinces during the Taliban administration before the US-led intervention in 2001. The prisoner swap was done in the early hours of Sunday (October 6, 2019) at an undisclosed location. The Afghan Taliban members were freed from the Bagram airbase by the US forces.
Seven Indian engineers working for a power plant in Afghanistan’s northern Baghlan Province were kidnapped in May 2018. No group had claimed responsibility for their abduction.(with inputs from agencies)
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