The Afghan Taliban has claimed that it has freed three Indian engineers held hostage by them in a prisoner exchange deal with United States. According to reports, the Indian hostages were released for securing the release of 11 Taliban members, including some high-ranking officials of the group. The freed Afghan Taliban includes prominent leaders Sheikh Abdul Rahim and Maulvi Abdur Rashid, said reports.
Seven Indian engineers working for a power plant in Afghanistan’s northern Baghlan Province were kidnapped in May 2018. One of the hostages was released in March. No group has claimed responsibility for their abduction.
The Radio Free Europe quoting some officials reported that the swap took place on Saturday in an undisclosed location. The officials refused to say who the militant group exchanged the prisoners with and whether the freed Taliban members were being held by Afghan authorities or US forces in Afghanistan.
The officials said the freed Taliban leaders include Sheikh Abdur Rahim and Mawlawi Abdur Rashid, who had served as the insurgent group's governors of Kunar and Nimroz provinces respectively during the Taliban administration before it was deposed by the US-led forces in 2001.
The Taliban officials provided a photo and footage of what they said was the freed militants being greeted after their release. There was no immediate comment from Afghan or Indian authorities.
Another report said that the Afghan Taliban members were freed from the Bagram airbase by the US forces, implying that the prisoner swap deal was done between the Taliban and the United States.
While the Taliban have confirmed the release of Indian prisoners, the news has not been verified by the Afghan government. There is also no clarity over the current location of the released engineers.