Taliban member freed from Guantanamo, claims he was exchanged for American

ISLAMABAD: A senior Taliban detainee held for years at Guantanamo Bay said on Monday (Sep 19) he was released and handed over earlier in the day to the Taliban in Kabul, in exchange for an American prisoner held in Afghanistan.

Bashir Noorzai, a notorious drug lord and member of the Taliban, told reporters in Kabul that he spent 17 years and six months in the US detention center at Guantanamo Bay, and that he was the last Taliban prisoner there.

The Taliban-appointed Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi also spoke at the press conference alongside Noorzai and welcomed the exchange, saying it marked the start of a “new era” in US-Taliban relations.

Muttaqi said the released American was Mark Frerichs, a Navy veteran and civilian contractor kidnapped in Afghanistan on Jan 31, 2020.

He was last seen in a video earlier this year, pleading for his release so that he can be reunited with his family, according to a recording posted by The New Yorker magazine at the time. In the video, Frerichs says it was filmed last November.