Tunisia: Taliban Frees Two Western Prisoners

Kabul/Afghanistan — The Afghan Taliban on Tuesday released American and Australian university professors held hostage for more than three years, officials of the three nations said, completing a delayed prisoner swap and raising hopes for a revival of peace talks.

American Kevin King and Australian Timothy Weeks, kidnapped in August 2016 outside Kabul's American University of Afghanistan, where both worked, were freed in return for the release of three Taliban commanders, Afghan officials said.

The U.S.-backed Afghan government's decision to carry out the swap is seen as key to securing direct talks with the Islamist militants, who have, until now, refused to engage with what they call an illegitimate "puppet" regime in Kabul.

Talks between the Taliban and the United States aimed at ending their 18-year war collapsed in September after President Donald Trump called off what he described as a planned meeting at the U.S. Camp David presidential retreat.

Earlier on Tuesday, three Taliban sources familiar with the deal, including one in Qatar, home to the political leadership of the Afghan Taliban, said the three Taliban commanders who were part of the swap were freed from jail in Afghanistan.

The United States and Australia confirmed the release, voicing hope that, along with other developments, it might improve chances for dialogue between the Afghans, and an eventual peace agreement.

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