THREE Indian engineers held by the Taliban in Afghanistan since May 2018 have been freed by the militant group in exchange for 11 of its top members from Afghan jails, according to media reports on Monday, amidst fresh efforts to revive the Afghan peace talks. The release of Indian hostages follows key meetings between US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad and Taliban representatives led by Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar in Islamabad during the weekend.
Two Taliban officials told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty on Sunday that the swap took place earlier in the day, but they did not disclose the location. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity, citing what they described as the sensitive nature of the issue. Seven Indian engineers and their Afghan driver were abducted in the first week of May, 2018 in the Bagh-e-Shamal area of northern Baghlan Province where they were working on an electricity sub-station. The Indians were working for KEC, a global infrastructure engineering, procurement and construction company of RPG Enterprises. No group has claimed responsibility for their abduction.
One of the seven Indian hostages was released in March. The Taliban officials refused to say whether the freed Taliban members were being held by Afghan authorities or US forces in Afghanistan. The Taliban were reportedly released from one of Afghanistan’s largest jails at the Bagram military base, north of the capital, Kabul, the Associated Press reported. While the US troops years ago handed over the sprawling base to Afghan security forces, it still maintains a military presence at Bagram. It was not clear whether the US or Afghan forces released the Taliban.