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November 15, 2019

Three Taliban prisoners sent back to Bagram jail after brief release


November 15, 2019

PESHAWAR: Senior members of the Afghan Taliban and sources close to the Haqqani militant network said the US and Afghan authorities had shifted their three prisoners back to the Bagram jail in Afghanistan, what they called “after a brief release”.

Afghan President Dr Ashraf Ghani in a live address on national television had confirmed prisoners’ swap and stated on Tuesday that the prisoners exchange would free two American University professors -- US citizen Kevin King and Australian citizen Timothy Weeks. Taliban had kidnapped the two university teachers at gunpoint from the American University of Afghanistan in Kabul in August 2016. Afghanistan and the Taliban had reached a deal to release two in exchange for three Taliban members, the Afghan president said Tuesday.

The Taliban prisoners supposed to be freed in exchange for the two university teachers included Anas Haqqani, younger brother of Taliban deputy chief and head of the Haqqani Network Sirajuddin Haqqani, his maternal uncle Haji Maali Khan and Hafiz Rasheed Ahamd Omari.

Ashraf Ghani had stated that the three Taliban captives were kept in a Bagram prison, which is under the control of the Afghan government and is a facility where some of the most high-profile prisoners are kept, after they were captured outside Afghanistan.

Even senior Taliban leaders and members of the Haqqani group had confirmed that three of their prisoners had been freed in exchange for two teachers. The Taliban said three of their prisoners were flown to Qatar in a special plane from Bagram. However, senior Taliban leaders and members of the Haqqani Network now said that their three prisoners had again been shifted to the Bagram jail in Afghanistan after their brief release in exchange for the two university teachers.

“We were shocked when we came to know about this fraud with us by the US and Afghan government officials. They had promised to release our three prisoners in exchange for the two university teachers on Tuesday. Our prisoners were given new clothes and traditional Afghan turbans and were even shifted out of their jail cells to a new location for their likely shifting to Qatar,” said one senior Taliban leader.

Pleading anonymity, he said their prisoners had even spoken to their family members and other close circles among the Taliban after they were taken out of Bagram jail. “They had talked to us after their release from jail and told us that they were now being taken to Qatar in a special plane,” recalled a senior Taliban leader privy to the prisoners’ swap.

He said some of their people and family members of the three prisoners had even distributed sweets when came to know about their release from jail. “After our conversation with them following their release from Bagram, we were then in contact with the Taliban office in Qatar. Even people in the Qatar office were anxiously waiting to receive them. But after hours of continuous wait, we knew latter that all the three prisoners had been shifted to jail,” said the Taliban leader. He claimed they had learnt that US officials suddenly changed their mind and refused to release their prisoners. “We didn’t believe the Americans and that’s why we hadn’t given them their two prisoners first. We kept our two prisoners in a very safe place in Afghanistan and now shifted to them to another safe place in the country,” said the Taliban leader.

Also, family sources of Anas Haqqani confirmed that they had not been freed yet. “The Americans and the Afghan officials once again didn’t honour their commitment. They proved themselves liar and damaged their refutation by backing away from their commitment,” said one Taliban source close to family of Anas Haqqani.

Pleading anonymity, he said they had not been told why the prisoners’ exchange delayed. “After change of their dresses, our prisoners were taken to another place and were told to wait for the flight. Last time we spoke to them was when they told us that they are being taken to the plane. We believed that after a few hours we would talk to them in Qatar but didn’t know the Americans and their puppets would deceive us,” said the Taliban source close to the Haqqani Network.

Pleading anonymity, he said their prisoners were kept in waiting by telling them different reasons about delay in flight. “They were first told that the plane hadn’t not yet arrived from Qatar. Then they were told that there is some technical fault in the plane and the engineers were working on it. And then they shifted them back to the Bagram jail,” said the Taliban leader.

He claimed one of their two prisoners, the American university teacher was seriously sick and they were worried about his health. “We had been taking care of all our prisoners but the American professor is having serious health issues,” claimed the Taliban leader.

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