Taliban releases two American prisoners who were held in Afghanistan as ‘goodwill’ gesture, US officials say
Two Americans detained in Afghanistan were released on Tuesday in what US officials described as a ‘goodwill gesture’.
The U.S. citizens are believed to have arrived in Qatar on Tuesday to be reunited with their families. It is not yet clear what efforts were taken to secure their return home.
Officials declined to give the names of the prisoners released out of respect for their privacy.
But sources told CNN that one of the Americans let go is Ivor Shearer, a filmmaker who was arrested in August while in the area where al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri was killed by a U.S. drone. CNN said it was withholding the name of the second prisoner at the request of the family.
Ned Price, the State Department spokesman, said the release was not part of a prisoner exchange and that no money was paid. He added it appeared to be a ‘good-will gesture’ on the part of the Taliban.
State department spokesman Ned Price slammed the decision to suspend university education for Afghan women
‘We are providing these two US nationals with all appropriate assistance,’ Price said. ‘They will soon be reunited with their loved ones and we are absolutely gratified to see that.’
Shearer was arrested along with his Afghan producer, Faizullah Faizbakhsh, in August this year while filming in Kabul, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.
The pair were questioned about their purpose in the area and handed over their work permits, passports and identification cards. The media workers’ mobile phones were then seized before they were blindfolded and detained, according to reports in the summer.
The Americans’ release came on the same day the Taliban suspended university education for female students in Afghanistan in the latest clampdown on women’s rights since the group came to power last year.
The Taliban had said that girls would be allowed to continue to study at all levels of education, but rowed back on this pledge.
The country’s Minister for Higher Education, Neda Mohammad Nadeem, issued a letter to all government and private universities instructing them to ban university education for women nationwide.
‘You all are informed to implement the mentioned order of suspending education of females until further notice,’ it read.
State department spokesman Ned Price slammed the move and told reporters in Washington: ‘The Taliban should expect that this decision, which is in contravention to the commitments they have made repeatedly and publicly to their own people, will carry concrete costs for them’.
Afghan women have been indefinitely banned from receiving a university education
The Americans’ release came just weeks after American basketball player Brittney Griner was freed from a Russian penal colony in a prisoner swap for convicted arms dealer Viktor Bout.