US-Taliban prisoner swap: Who are Mark Frerichs, Bashir Noorzai? | Taliban News

The US hails the discharge of navy veteran Mark Frerichs by Afghanistan, exchanged for convicted drug trafficker Bashir Noorzai.

Washington, DC – America has freed a convicted Afghan druglord imprisoned within the US in a prisoner swap with the Taliban that noticed the discharge of a US Navy veteran held in Afghanistan since 2020.

US President Joe Biden on Monday welcomed the discharge of Mark Frerichs, who was kidnapped whereas working as a civil engineer in Afghanistan.

However he acknowledged that the deal “required tough choices”, referring to the discharge of Bashir Noorzai, a Taliban ally who was serving a life sentence in a US jail on drug prices.

The prisoner change comes greater than a 12 months after the Taliban took over the Afghan capital amid the withdrawal of US troops in August 2021.

Washington has not recognised the Taliban authorities. However on Monday, officers in each nations mentioned the prisoner swap was the results of prolonged negotiations, suggesting that communication channels between the Biden administration and the Taliban are open.

Right here, Al Jazeera takes a take a look at who Frerichs and Noorzai are, and the efforts that led to their launch.

Bashir Noorzai
Bashir Noorzai (centre) on the Intercontinental Lodge in Kabul after his launch from US jail, September 19 [Ebrahim Noroozi/AP Photo]

Bashir Noorzai

  • Noorzai, often known as Hajji Bashir, is a tribal chief in Afghanistan’s southern Kandahar province.
  • In accordance with the US authorities, he owned poppy fields and laboratories for the manufacturing of heroin and oversaw a worldwide drug operation. US officers have described him because the “Pablo Escobar of heroin trafficking in Asia”, evaluating him to an notorious Colombian druglord.
  • Noorzai was accused of getting shut private ties with the Taliban’s late co-founder Mullah Omar. US prosecutors say he financially supported the Taliban in change for permitting his drug enterprise to proceed.
  • He was arrested in 2005 within the US, the place his legal professionals mentioned he deliberate to speak with federal officers. It isn’t clear in what capability he was speaking with US authorities at the moment.
  • In 2008, Noorzai was convicted of drug-related conspiracy prices. A 12 months later, he was sentenced to life in jail.
  • “Bashir Noorzai’s worldwide narcotics community supported a Taliban regime that made Afghanistan a breeding floor for worldwide terrorism, a legacy that continues to destabilize the area,” a US Justice Division official mentioned in a press release at the moment. “In the present day’s sentence definitively places an finish to Noorzai’s lengthy felony profession.”
  • Noorzai’s legal professionals have denied the allegations in opposition to him, arguing that he was lured into the US on the promise that he wouldn’t be arrested.

Mark Frerichs

  • Frerichs, 60, is a navy veteran and civil engineer who labored as a civilian contractor in Afghanistan till he was kidnapped in Khost province, southeast of Kabul, in early 2020.
  • Whereas the circumstances of his kidnapping stay unclear, unidentified US officers have informed information shops that they imagine he was kidnapped by the Taliban-aligned Haqqani Community.
  • The Related Press information company reported in 2020 that US forces performed a failed rescue operation to free Frerichs that 12 months.
  • In a video filmed late in 2021 and made public in April, Frerichs pleaded for his launch, saying he wished to be reunited along with his household. “I’d prefer to ask the management of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, please, launch me,” he mentioned.
  • Frerichs’s household known as on the Biden administration earlier this 12 months to free Noorzai – a recognized key demand of the Taliban – to safe the US Navy veteran’s launch.
  • “I perceive Noorzai is a convicted felony … However I do know we’ve held him for greater than 16 years and that others who’ve achieved so much worse have been despatched house. It’s regular for prisoners to be returned after wars finish,” Frerichs’s sister Charlene Cakora wrote within the Washington Publish in January.
  • Lawmakers from Frerichs’s house state of Illinois had additionally urged Biden to “push on each affordable lever” to make sure his launch. Frerichs is from Lombard, a city close to Chicago.
  • Frerichs’s household defended the prisoner swap deal on Monday. “My brother is alive and secure as a result of President Biden took motion. There have been some of us arguing in opposition to the deal that introduced Mark house, however President Biden did what was proper. He saved the lifetime of an harmless American veteran,” Cakora mentioned in a press release, as reported by a number of US information shops.

China lifts weeks-long lockdown on southwest Chengdu | Coronavirus pandemic News

Authorities workplaces, public transport companies, and firms had been in a position to resume work within the metropolis of 21 million individuals after COVID outbreak.

Thousands and thousands of individuals within the Chinese language megacity of Chengdu emerged on Monday from a coronavirus lockdown that closed faculties, companies and compelled residents to remain house for greater than two weeks.

With a inhabitants of 21 million, southwest China’s Chengdu is the most important Chinese language metropolis to close down since world finance hub Shanghai imposed a strict two-month lockdown in April, leaving many residents scrambling for meals.

China is the final key economic system welded to a zero-COVID technique and officers are underneath strain to curb virus flare-ups swiftly forward of a key political assembly in mid-October.

“With the joint efforts of the entire metropolis, the epidemic has been successfully managed,” the Chengdu authorities stated in an announcement.

Authorities departments, public transport companies, and firms had been in a position to resume work on Monday after shutting down on September 1.

Chengdu will proceed to conduct mass testing, and anybody who desires to enter a public space or take public transport would require a adverse COVID check consequence inside 72 hours, much like the principles in different giant cities together with Beijing and Shanghai.

Colleges will reopen in an “orderly method” and returning college students shall be strictly examined, the assertion stated.

Workers in protective suits are seen outside a nightclub, which has been closed after new cases of the coronavirus disease
As of September 18, mainland China confirmed 248,326 coronavirus instances [CNS via Reuters]

Gyms, swimming swimming pools, mahjong golf equipment, and different indoor leisure venues should all test whether or not patrons have a adverse check consequence inside 48 hours.

No new instances had been reported within the metropolis on Monday.

Throughout the strict lockdown, some residents confined to their properties couldn’t even flee when a robust earthquake in a close-by a part of Sichuan province reverberated via the town earlier this month.

Chengdu will host the world group desk tennis championships on the finish of September in a “closed-loop” bubble that shall be China’s first worldwide sports activities occasion because the Beijing Winter Olympics and Paralympics in February and March.

A number of different cities – together with the southern tech hub of Shenzhen and Guiyang in south China, the place Apple’s China information centre is situated – have all had selective lockdowns and journey restrictions in latest weeks as officers rushed to curb mini-outbreaks.

Final month, travellers within the southern island province of Hainan protested after greater than 80,000 vacationers had been stranded in a resort metropolis due to a COVID-19 flare-up.

China reported 807 new home infections on Monday, nearly all of which had been asymptomatic, in keeping with the Nationwide Well being Fee. As of September 18, mainland China confirmed 248,326 instances with signs.

Biden says US forces would defend Taiwan from Chinese invasion | Conflict News

US president’s remarks newest signal of a shift away from coverage of strategic ambiguity towards self-ruled island.

United States President Joe Biden has mentioned US forces would defend Taiwan from a Chinese language invasion, the strongest indication but of a shift away from Washington’s decades-long coverage of strategic ambiguity towards the island democracy.

Requested in a tv interview whether or not the US navy would defend the self-governed island if China invaded, Biden mentioned it could if there “was an unprecedented assault.”

Requested to make clear additional, Biden confirmed that US personnel would come to the defence of Taiwan, not like in Ukraine, which Washington has given materials help and navy tools to repel Russia with out committing American troops.

Biden’s feedback are his newest to forged doubt on long-standing US coverage towards Taiwan enshrined in 1979 Taiwan Relations Act, which commits Washington to assist Taipei defend itself however stops wanting promising to supply troops or straight take part in any battle.

Throughout a visit to Japan in Might, Biden appeared to verify that he would use drive to defend Taiwan if it was attacked by China, describing the defence of the island as a “dedication we made”.

Whereas many observers have taken Biden’s feedback as signalling the top of strategic ambiguity towards Taiwan, White Home officers have repeatedly insisted that US coverage towards the island stays unchanged.

A White Home spokesperson mentioned that US coverage had not modified regardless of Biden’s newest remarks.

“The president has mentioned this earlier than, together with in Tokyo earlier this 12 months,” the spokesperson mentioned. He additionally made clear then that our Taiwan coverage hasn’t modified. That is still true.”

In his interview with CBS’ 60 Minutes, Biden reiterated that Washington doesn’t help Taiwanese independence and is dedicated to the “One-China” coverage, below which the US formally recognises Beijing however not Taipei.

Regardless of not formally recognising Taipei, Washington ranks amongst Taiwan’s strongest worldwide backers, and earlier this month agreed to promote $1.1bn in weaponry to the island.

China claims Taiwan as a province that have to be “reunified” with the mainland, by drive if obligatory, and has accused the US of disrupting regional stability and inspiring Taiwanese separatism.

After Biden’s feedback in Might, China’s overseas ministry warned that “nobody ought to underestimate the agency resolve, staunch will and powerful means of the Chinese language folks in defending nationwide sovereignty and territorial integrity”.

Matthew Kroenig, deputy director of the Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Middle for Technique and Safety, mentioned Biden’s stance on defending Taiwan was “crystal clear.”

“So long as he’s president, US coverage is to defend Taiwan. That is the suitable coverage because it contributes to the deterrence of China and helps to information US navy planning,” Kroenig instructed Al Jazeera.

“I do suppose America has the abdomen for that battle. Hitler and imperial Japan guess that America didn’t have the abdomen for a battle within the run as much as WWII. How did that end up for them? Washington has an enormous strategic curiosity in sustaining peace and stability, and a free and open order, within the Indo-Pacific.”