Taliban frees 3 Indian engineers in exchange for 11 militants

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Three Indian hostages have been freed by the Afghan Taliban in exchange for the release of 11 members of the militant group following talks between Taliban leaders and a US special envoy, people familiar with developments said on Monday.

It is believed the three Indians were part of a group of seven engineers kidnapped from Afghanistan’s northern Baghlan province in May 2018. While out of the seven, one was freed in March, the fate of the others remains unknown. The engineers were working on power projects run by the Afghan government.

The swap of the three Indians for the Taliban prisoners was done on early Sunday, following which the Taliban prisoners were reportedly freed from Bagram airbase.

The people cited above confirmed that the three engineers had been handed over to Indian authorities. An official word on the development from the Afghan and Indian governments is awaited.

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Reports suggested the swap of the hostages and Taliban prisoners is the result of talks in Islamabad between a Taliban delegation and US special representative Zalmay Khalilzad, the first contact between the two sides since peace talks between them collapsed last month.

Earlier, the Afghan Taliban told RFE/RL website that the group had freed three Indian hostages in exchange for 11 Taliban members, including Sheikh Abdur Rahim and Mawlawi Abdur Rashid, who served as governors of Kunar and Nimroz provinces under the Taliban regime that was ousted in 2001.

Two Afghan Taliban officials cited by RFE/RL refused to specify details of the exchange vis a vis who the militant group exchanged the Indian hostages with, and whether the freed Taliban members were being held by Afghan or US authorities. The Afghan Taliban also released a photo of the freed Taliban members.

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