Afghanistan announces Taliban prisoner swap to free hostages

Afghanistan is to release three high-ranking Taliban prisoners in exchange for two hostages held by the group, President Ashraf Ghani has said.

American Kevin King and Australian Timothy Weeks were lecturers at the American University of Afghanistan when they were kidnapped in 2016.

Anas Haqqani, a leading figure in the Haqqani militant group, and two other senior commanders are part of the deal.

It is unclear how or when the exchange of prisoners will take place.

“In order to pave the way for face-to-face negotiations with the Taliban, the government has decided to free Taliban prisoners in exchange for two university professors,” Mr Ghani said in a televised speech.

The Taliban, who have long refused to negotiate with Mr Ghani’s administration, are yet to respond to the announcement.

The two professors were ambushed by gunmen and taken from a vehicle while leaving their university campus in Kabul in August 2016.

The pair then appeared in a video, released in January 2017, appealing to then US President-elect Donald Trump to agree to a deal to secure their release.

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Ashraf Ghani said the prisoners would be released from Bagram prison

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