The Afghan government has agreed to release three Taliban leaders. Kabul said the move was part of a prisoner swap for one US and one Australian hostage being held by insurgents.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said Kabul would conditionally release three Taliban prisoners as part of a swap deal that would see two Western hostages freed by insurgents.
However, Ghani told a press conference on Tuesday that the prisoners will only be freed if the Taliban in turn release two professors from the American University of Afghanistan — US citizen Kevin King and the Australian Timothy Weeks.
Both were abducted by militants in August of 2016.
"Our joint effort in tracing the two professors gave no result, and information suggests that their health and safety while being held by the kidnapping terrorists have deteriorated," the Afghan leader said.
The decision comes as efforts are being made to revamp peace talks between the US and the Taliban. Ghani said the releases would make it possible for talks to take place.
The insurgents to be freed include Anas Haqqani, the younger brother of Sirajuddin Haqqani — the leader of the Haqqani network. Also among them is a deputy Taliban leader.
The Haqqani network has carried out large-scale militant attacks on civilians in Afghanistan in recent years and is believed to be based in Pakistan.
rc/rt (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)