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.

Russia says freed ex-US marine Trevor Reed in prisoner exchange | News


The prisoner swap came about on Wednesday because of a prolonged negotiation course of, overseas ministry says.

Russia’s overseas ministry has mentioned it has exchanged Trevor Reed, a former United States marine held in a Russian prison, for its citizen Konstantin Yaroshenko, who was serving 20-year sentence within the US on drug prices.

The prisoner swap came about on Wednesday as the results of a prolonged negotiation course of, overseas ministry spokewoman Maria Zakharova mentioned on her Telegram channel.

The White Home additionally confirmed Reed’s launch, with President Joe Biden saying in an announcement that Reed “is free from Russian detention”.

“I heard within the voices of Trevor’s dad and mom how a lot they’ve frightened about his well being and missed his presence,” Biden mentioned. “And I used to be delighted to have the ability to share with them the excellent news about Trevor’s freedom”.

He added the negotiations for Reed’s launch “required tough choices that I don’t take calmly”.

The US president didn’t instantly identify Yaroshenko, a Russian pilot who was serving a 20 12 months sentence after being convicted of conspiracy to smuggle cocaine into the US. He was arrested in Liberia.

Trevor Reed parents
Joey and Paula Reed pose for a photograph with a portrait of their son Marine veteran and Russian prisoner Trevor Reed at their house in Fort Value, Texas. [File: LM Otero/The Associated Press]

Reed had been arrested in the summertime of 2019 after Russian authorities mentioned he assaulted an officer in Moscow throughout an evening of heavy ingesting. He was was later sentenced to 9 years in jail, although his household has maintained his innocence and the U.S. authorities has described him as unjustly detained.

Reporting from Moscow, Al Jazeera’s Dorsa Jabbari mentioned that the Russian overseas ministry confirmed that Reed, who had launched a starvation strike in March, is “now on his means house”.

“Reed was arrested in 2019 and charged with assaulting and endangering the lifetime of a police officer right here in Moscow,” she mentioned. “He was given a sentence of 9 years in 2020, which is near the utmost sentence of 10 years he might have gotten.”

In an announcement, the Reed household thanked President Joe Biden “for making the choice to deliver Trevor house” in addition to different administration officers and Invoice Richardson, the previous US ambassador to the United Nations who the household mentioned traveled to Moscow within the hours earlier than the Ukraine battle started in hopes of securing Reed’s launch.

Reed was certainly one of a number of Individuals identified to be held by Russia, together with WNBA star Brittney Griner, who was detained in February after authorities mentioned a search of her bag revealed a hashish spinoff, and Michigan company safety govt Paul Whelan, who’s being held on espionage-related prices his household says are bogus. It was unclear what if any impression Wednesday’s motion may need on their circumstances.

Within the assertion on Wednesday, Biden mentioned his administration “received’t cease till Paul Whelan and others be part of Trevor within the loving arms of household and associates”.

Reed’s launch comes after uncommon personal assembly with Biden and administration officers final month. They’d stood weeks earlier alongside his motorcade route throughout a presidential go to to Texas in hopes of attracting his consideration, then later demonstrated outdoors the White Home to ask for a gathering.