Fri, 18 Sep 2020

ISLAMABAD -- The Afghan Taliban says it has freed three Indian hostages in an exchange for securing the release of 11 Taliban members, including some high-ranking officials of the militant group.

Two Taliban officials told RFE/RL on October 6 that the swap took place earlier in the day, but they didn't disclose the location.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity, citing what they described as the sensitive nature of the issue.

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 U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

The officials said the freed Taliban include Sheikh Abdur Rahim and Mawlawi Abdur Rashid, who had served as the militant group's governors of Kunar and Nimroz provinces respectively during the Taliban administration before it was deposed by U.S.-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.

RFE/RL could not verify the authenticity of the photo and video.

There was no immediate comment from Afghan or Indian authorities. RFE/RL's Radio Mashaal contacted a Pakistani government official with close knowledge of the matter, but the official declined to comment.

Seven Indian engineers working for a power plant in Afghanistan's northern Baghlan Province were kidnapped in May 2018.

No group has claimed responsibility for their abduction.

One of the hostages was released in March, but the fate of the others remains unknown.

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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