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2 Western hostages in Afghanistan freed by Taliban in swap for top commanders – officials

2 Western hostages in Afghanistan freed by Taliban in swap for top commanders – officials

The Taliban released two Western hostages on Tuesday, Afghan government officials said, completing a delayed prisoner swap for three of the militant group’s commanders.

American Kevin King and Australian Timothy Weeks were kidnapped in August 2016 from outside the American University of Afghanistan in Kabul where both worked as professors, Reuters reports.

The US-backed government’s decision to carry out the swap is seen as key to securing direct talks with the militants, who have, until now, refused to engage with what they call an illegitimate “puppet” regime in Kabul. “The two professors are safely freed and are being taken care of now,” a senior Afghan official said.

Earlier on Tuesday, Taliban sources, including one in Qatar, home to the political leadership of the Afghan Taliban, said the three Taliban commanders who are part of the swap were freed in Afghanistan.