Taliban launch U.S. engineer in prisoner swap

Navy veteran Mark Frerichs is free after two and a half years of captivity in Afghanistan underneath a prisoner swap personally authorized by President Joe Biden, a senior administration official informed NBC Information.

After months of negotiations with the Taliban, Biden agreed to commute the sentence of an Afghan drug lord, Bashir Noorzai, who spent 17 years in U.S. custody and was convicted in 2008 of working a serious operation to smuggle heroin into New York Metropolis.

The Taliban introduced the deal in a single day and Noorzai appeared at a information convention in Kabul.

“This can be a painful resolution for any president to make,” the administration official mentioned. “There’s simply no symmetry in any respect between Mark, who did completely nothing fallacious…and Noorzai, who had all the advantages of the U.S. authorized system.”

Early this morning, Biden referred to as Frerichs sister, Charlene Cakora, with the information, the official mentioned.

Frerichs, 60, is a civil engineer from Lombard, Illinois who had been working as a contractor. He’s the final U.S. hostage who was on the radar of the Biden White Home earlier than U.S. troops left Afghanistan a yr in the past.

There isn’t a allegation on the general public document that Noorzai killed Individuals, though federal prosecutors mentioned his drug smuggling community did nice hurt. He as soon as managed a major share of the world’s heroin commerce and has been described because the Asian counterpart to the Colombian cocaine drug lord Pablo Escobar.

Frerichs landed in Doha, Qatar, someday after 5:30 a.m. EST, after boarding the identical airplane that delivered Noorzai, the official mentioned. An preliminary medical verify in Kabul discovered him to be in good well being, the official mentioned.

 Frerichs was seized on the streets of Kabul by the Haqqani community in 2020, officers have mentioned. Lately, it has change into clear that the Taliban wished Noorzai’s freedom as a situation of releasing the American.

Biden made the choice to authorize that launch in June, the official mentioned. He mentioned the U.S. operation to kill al Qaeda chief Ayman al Zawahiri in Kabul in August didn’t appear to complicate the talks.

Noorzai had been producing heroin in Afghanistan on the market in the USA because the Nineteen Nineties, and he helped Taliban chief Mullah Omar take energy, in response to Justice Division data. He lent round 400 of his fighters to the Taliban in 2001 to battle the Northern Alliance, the Justice Division mentioned on the time of his sentencing.

He was arrested in New York in 2005 after he got here to the U.S. underneath an association by which he believed he was offering data to the U.S. authorities, a flip of occasions his attorneys would later name a betrayal.

“We’re working very laborious as a authorities not simply to resolve present circumstances, but additionally to punish, and by punishing, deter future circumstances,” the senior administration official mentioned.

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