Afghanistan’s government has released three Taliban prisoners in exchange for one American professor and one Australian professor who have been held by the insurgent group for years.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said Tuesday that his government had agreed to the “conditional release” of the three prominent Taliban members in exchange for the release of American University of Afghanistan professors Kevin King of the U.S. and Timothy Weeks of Australia, according to multiple reports.
Among the released Taliban members was Anas Haqqani, who is the younger brother of the leader of the Taliban’s military operations, according to The New York Times.
The others released were Hafiz Rashid, a senior Taliban commander who had worked with suicide bombers and Hajji Mali Khan, a senior commander and uncle of a deputy leader.
Ghani said the decision was made after consultations with the United States, according to NBC News. NBC also reported that the three Taliban members were flown to Qatar on a special plane from Kabul.
The American University of Afghanistan said in a statement obtained by The Associated Press that it was “encouraged to hear reports of the possible release of our two colleagues, Kevin King and Timothy Weeks.”
The move follows stalled peace talks between the U.S., Afghanistan and the Taliban. President Trump called off negotiations in September after the Taliban claimed responsibility for an attack in Kabul that killed 11 civilians and a U.S. service member.
Ghani said Tuesday that the release was intended to “facilitate direct peace negotiations,” according to The Associated Press.
King and Weeks were abducted near the American University of Afghanistan in 2016.