Saturday, May 31st, 2014 at 7:35pm

US soldier freed in Taliban prisoner swap

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The only US soldier held prisoner in Afghanistan has been freed as part of a swap deal with the Taliban brokered by the government of Qatar.

Bowe Bergdahl’s release was part of a negotiation that included the freeing of five high-profile Afghan prisoners held in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, statements from the US government said.

The US president, Barack Obama, thanked Qatar’s EmirSheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, for his commitment to the mediation between the US and the Taliban.

The 28-year-old Bergdahl, a sergeant in the US army, had been held by the Taliban since June 30, 2009. He was handed to US troops by the Taliban on Saturday evening in an area of eastern Afghanistan, near the Pakistan border

Officials said the exchange was not violent and Bergdahl was in good condition and able to walk.

The Taliban prisoners were to be handed over to authorities in Qatar. They were named on Saturday as Mohammad Fazl, Mullah Norullah Noori, Mohammed Nabi, Khairullah Khairkhwa and Abdul Haq Wasiq.

All were high-ranking members of the Taliban government toppled by the US in 2001. Fazl was the deputy defence minister, while Noori was the governor of Balkh province. 

In a statement, Obama said: “The American people are pleased that we will be able to welcome home Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl.

“On behalf of the American people, I was honoured to call his parents to express our joy that they can expect his safe return, mindful of their courage and sacrifice throughout this ordeal.  

“For his assistance in helping to secure our soldier’s return, I extend my deepest appreciation to the Emir of Qatar. 

“The Emir’s personal commitment to this effort is a testament to the partnership between our two countries.”

A senior White House official told Al Jazeera that the US administration would not transfer any prisoners from Guantanamo “unless the threat they may pose to the US can be mitigated”.

He added that the Taliban prisoners would be “subject to restrictions on their movement and activities”.

The deal was agreed through indirect talks with the Taliban’s political commission and was part of a broader reconciliation framework, the official said.


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