An American contractor who was held captive in Afghanistan for over two years was released in a prisoner swap with the Taliban, the White House said on Monday.
Mark Frerichs was released in a deal that saw the release of senior Taliban member Haji Bashir Noorzai, who had been serving a 17 year drug trafficking sentence in a US prison. As part of the exchange, Noorzai was granted clemency, according to a Biden administration official.
“Bringing Mark home has been a top priority for President Biden and his national security team,” the official told CNN.
Frerichs was kidnapped in January 2020 when the Navy veteran from Illinois was doing construction work in Afghanistan. He was taken captive by the Haqqani faction of the Taliban.
Frerichs was flown to Doha, Qatar. He was reportedly able to board the airplane on his own and is in good mental and physical health.
His family released a statement thanking the Biden administration for working to have him safely released.
“There were some folks arguing against the deal that brought Mark home, but President Biden did what was right. He saved the life of an innocent American veteran,” his sister, Charlene Cakora, said.
“I am so happy to hear that my brother is safe and on his way home to us. Our family has prayed for this each day of the more than 31 months he has been a hostage,” Cakora added. “We never gave up hope that he would survive and come home safely to us.”
A short video of Frerichs from November 28, 2021 was released earlier in the year by the New Yorker in which the captive asked the US government to secure his release. It was the first time he had been seen since his abduction.