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.

Taliban supreme leader makes rare appearance to mark Eid al-Fitr | Taliban News

Haibatullah Akhunzada appeared for under the second time since taking management of the Taliban in 2016 and hailed the ‘safety’ state of affairs in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan’s supreme chief Haibatullah Akhunzada appeared for under the second time since taking control of the Taliban in 2016 to inform worshippers celebrating Eid al-Fitr that the Taliban had achieved freedom and safety since seizing energy final 12 months.

Flanked by safety, Akhunzada spoke days after a strong explosion ripped by a mosque in Kabul, killing greater than 50 worshippers after Friday prayers – the newest of a sequence of assaults on civilian targets in Afghanistan throughout Ramadan.

“Congratulations on victory, freedom and success,” Akhunzada informed hundreds of worshippers on Saturday on the Eidgah mosque within the southern metropolis of Kandahar, the group’s de facto energy centre. “Congratulations on this safety and for the Islamic system.”

Whereas the variety of bombings throughout the nation has dropped since Kabul fell to the Taliban final August, assaults soared over the ultimate two weeks of Ramadan, which ended on Saturday for Afghans.

Dozens of civilians have been killed within the primarily sectarian assaults – some claimed by the ISIL (ISIS) armed group – focusing on members of the Shia and Sufi Muslim communities.

Taliban chief Mullah Haibatullah Akhunzada is seen in an undated {photograph} [File: Reuters]

Akhunzada delivered his transient handle from one of many entrance rows of worshippers in Kandahar with out turning to face the group, in line with social media posts. Taliban officers didn’t permit journalists to strategy him. Two helicopters hovered over the mosque for the two-hour occasion.

In October, he had visited the Darul Uloom Hakimiah mosque in Kandahar, in line with an audio recording circulated by Taliban social media accounts.

On Sunday, many Afghans stayed indoors after the latest lethal assaults.

“The state of affairs of our folks could be very unhappy, particularly after what occurred within the mosques,” Kabul resident Ahmad Shah Hashemi stated. “Many younger and outdated folks have been martyred. The folks of Afghanistan don’t have anything however sorrow.”

Reclusive determine

Akhunzada’s low profile has fed hypothesis about his function within the new Taliban authorities – shaped after the armed group took management of Kabul on August 15 – and even rumours of his demise.

Akhunzada, believed to be in his 70s, has been the non secular chief of the Taliban since 2016. He succeeded Mullah Akhtar Mansoor who was killed in a US drone strike inside Pakistan.

His public profile has largely been restricted to the discharge of messages throughout Islamic holidays, and Akhunzada is believed to spend most of his time in Kandahar.

On Friday, in a message launched before Eid al-Fitr, he made no point out of the bloodshed that has rocked Afghanistan over Ramadan, as an alternative praising the Taliban’s constructing of “a powerful Islamic and nationwide military” and “robust intelligence organisation”.

He additionally referred to as on the worldwide group to recognise the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. The Taliban-led authorities is but to be recognised by any nation because it returned to energy final August, 20 years after it was toppled in a US-led invasion.

Palestinians mark prisoners’ day amid Jerusalem tensions | Occupied West Bank News

Gaza Metropolis – Dozens of individuals have gathered reverse the headquarters of the Worldwide Committee of the Pink Cross (ICRC) within the besieged Gaza Strip to demand that Israel instantly launch Palestinian prisoners.

The demonstration on Sunday was considered one of a number of held throughout the occupied Palestinian territories to mark Palestinian Prisoners Day, an event on which Palestinians historically present solidarity with these held in Israeli prisons.

More than 4,400 Palestinians are at present held in Israeli jails. Greater than 500 detainees, together with ladies and minors, are held in “administrative detention”, below which suspects are held without charge or trial for an indefinite time interval.

Samira al-Haj Ahmad, 56, who goes by Umm Raed, has joined the annual protests and brought half in weekly solidarity sit-ins for the previous 17 years.

Her son Raed al-Hajj Ahmad is being detained at Nafha, a jail within the Naqab (Negev) area of Israel. He was sentenced to twenty years of imprisonment in 2004 after trying an assault on the Beit Hanoun (Erez) checkpoint in northern Gaza.

“The struggling of our sons in Israeli prisons continues, troublesome circumstances and harsh remedy by the jailers,” she advised Al Jazeera, holding Raed’s picture.

“The flower of my son’s youth went in jail. He was solely 20 when he was detained, now he’s 38,” she stated. “Each month of Ramadan we miss him on the iftar desk, our lives haven’t any style with out him.”

A mother of a Palestinian prisoner holds a poster with his photo.
Samira al-Haj Ahmad, 56, mom of a prisoner sentenced to twenty years in Israeli jails [Mohammed Salem/ Al Jazeera]

Different occasions to mark the day passed off within the districts of Ramallah, Nablus and Hebron within the occupied West Financial institution, the place contributors walked in demonstrations and held banners to indicate solidarity with the prisoners.

This yr’s Prisoners Day comes after more than 300 Palestinians were arrested and at least 160 wounded as Israeli forces raided the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in occupied East Jerusalem on Friday.

“Day by day there are dozens of younger males who’re arrested, as we noticed two days in the past in Jerusalem and within the West Financial institution,” Um Raed stated.

“Nobody cares concerning the variety of prisoners that Israel is holding. Everybody should work for the discharge of all our youth detained by Israel.”

In accordance with the rights group Addameer, 12 of 32 Palestinian ladies held in Israeli prisons are moms, and about 160 Palestinian kids aged 12-17 are in Israeli detention.

Fatima al-Ziq, an ex-prisoner, joined the Palestinian Prisoners' Day protests in Gaza.
Fatima al-Ziq, a former prisoner, joined the protests [Mohammed Salem/ Al Jazeera]

Former prisoner Fatima al-Ziq, 52, advised Al Jazeera that the problem of prisoners ought to be a prime precedence for the Palestinian management and political factions.

“From my previous expertise I lived my most troublesome days in Israeli prisons. The jail service used all measures of psychological and bodily torture towards us,” she stated.

“The insurance policies of deprivation of household visits, solitary confinement, administrative detention are nonetheless used towards prisoners.”

Al-Ziq was arrested in Could 2007 when she was two months pregnant on the Beit Hanoun (Erez) crossing, accusd of trying to hold out an assault in Israel. She later gave start to her son Yousef in an Israeli jail.

She and her son have been freed together with one other 19 Palestinian ladies as a part of a deal in 2009 between Israel and Hamas, the Palestinian faction that guidelines Gaza. Below the deal, Hamas produced a so-called “proof of life” video of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who had been held captive for greater than three years and Israel launched the ladies prisoners.

Um Ibrahim Baroud, 82 years old, a mother of a released prisoner Ibrahim Baroud, who was released in April 2013 after spending 27 years in Israeli prisons.
Um Ibrahim Baroud has continued to participate in prisoners’ day occasions after her son was launched from jail [Mohammed Salem/ Al Jazeera]

Um Ibrahim Baroud, 82, is the mom of Ibrahim Baroud, who was launched in April 2013 after spending 27 years in Israeli prisons.

“My struggling whereas ready for the discharge of my son made me really feel just like the mom of each prisoner,” she advised Al Jazeera.

“All of the prisoners are my sons, and I pray for his or her launch daily. Nobody feels the struggling of the prisoner and his household besides the one who tasted this cup,” she stated.

In 1995, Umm Ibrahim co-founded a weekly sit-in for Palestinian prisoners’ households reverse the ICRC headquarters in an try to lift consciousness concerning the plight of Palestinian prisoners.  Till at this time, folks proceed to collect on the website every Monday morning.

“I had this concept with one other prisoner’s mom. We wished to verify our sons weren’t forgotten,” she stated.

“It was simply the 2 of us standing outdoors the ICRC the primary time – however we knew the subsequent week there could be three or 4 of us, after which, slowly, extra moms joined us,” she stated.

Umm Ibrahim known as for the discharge of Palestinian prisoners and to cease Israel’s punitive measures towards them.

“The worldwide group ought to act to cease the brutal insurance policies of administrative detention, youngster detention and launch these with excessive sentences.”

Infographic showing how many Palestinians are held in Israeli prisons in 2022 for Palestinian prisoner's day