Af Tal­iban free 3 In­dian en­grs in re­turn for 11 of their men

Fate Of 3 More In­dian Hostages Still Not Clear

The Times of India (New Delhi edition) - - Times Sport - Omer Farooq Khan & Aarti Tikoo Singh

Is­lam­abad/New Delhi: The Afghan Tal­iban have re­leased three In­dian en­gi­neers, who were held hostage for over a year, in ex­change for at least 11 mem­bers of their out­fit. The swap took place early on Sun­day with their mem­bers re­leased from a high-se­cu­rity US­con­trolled prison in Afghanista­n’s Ba­gram and handed over to Tal­iban lead­ers in the north­ern Baghlan prov­ince, ac­cord­ing to Tal­iban of­fi­cials.

The freed In­di­ans were part of a group of seven en­gi­neers kid­napped along with their driver by Tal­iban ter­ror­ist Mul­lah Yunus of Baghlan from north­ern Afghanista­n in May last year. One of the hostages was re­leased in March, but the fate of the rest of them re­mains un­clear.

The three In­dian en­gi­neers have not been named. Tal­iban had never for­mally claimed re­spon­si­bil­ity for the kid­nap­ping of the In­dian en­gi­neers. Their re­lease, how­ever, con­firmed that they were held hostage by the out­fit.

The freed Tal­iban mem­bers in­cluded Sheikh Ab­dul Rahim and Maulvi Rashid, who were gov­er­nors of Ku­nar and Nim­roz provinces re­spec­tively dur­ing the out­fit’s rule, and Aziz ur Rah­man, also known as Eh­san­ul­lah, the nephew of Tal­iban deputy chief Si­ra­jud­din Haqqani.

The In­dian gov­ern­ment re­frained from com­ment­ing on the de­vel­op­ment. How­ever, sources con­firmed they had strong in­di­ca­tion of the en­gi­neers hav­ing been re­leased.

Sources said most of the seven who were ab­ducted were from Jhark­hand and worked with Mum­bai-based com­pany KEC In­ter­na­tional Lim­ited. The Afghan Tal­iban had re­port­edly asked KEC to pay a mas­sive ran­som for the re­lease of its en­gi­neers. KEC, how­ever, re­fused to pay, the sources said. A part of RPG En­ter­prises, KEC is in­volved in in­fra and con­struc­tion projects in many coun­tries.

The move came a week af­ter a del­e­ga­tion of Tal­iban lead­ers met US spe­cial en­voy for Afghan rec­on­cil­i­a­tion Zal­may Khalilzad. It was the first meet­ing since talks be­tween the two sides col­lapsed af­ter Pres­i­dent Trump had called off his plan to host a Tal­iban del­e­ga­tion a month ago.

En­gi­neers are from Jhark­hand and they work for Mum­bai-based KEC In­ter­na­tional Ltd, part of RPG En­ter­prises Afghan Tal­iban asked KEC to pay a mas­sive ran­som, but the com­pany re­fused to The prisoner swap was dis­cussed in last week’s meet be­tween Tal­iban lead­ers & US en­voy for Afghan rec­on­cil­i­a­tion (in pic) The ex­change, Tal­iban sources said, was part of a con­fi­dence build­ing mea­sure to re­vive the stalled peace process

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