Haji Bashir Noorzai, a senior Taliban figure, has been released after decades of detention by the United States (US) and arrived in Kabul on Monday, a Taliban spokesperson said.

“Honorable Haji Bashir was released after two decades of imprisonment and arrived in Kabul today,” said Mohammad Naeem, a Taliban spokesperson.

An American navy veteran detained in Afghanistan since 2020 was released by the Taliban on Monday in exchange for an ally, Noorzai, who spent 17 years in a US jail for heroin smuggling, Afghanistan’s foreign minister said.

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After long negotiations, US citizen Mark Frerichs was handed over to an American delegation which then handed over (Bashar Noorzai) to us today at Kabul airport,” Afghan Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi said at a press conference.

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“We are happy that at Kabul International Airport, in the capital of Afghanistan, we witnessed the wonderful ceremony of one of our compatriots returning home,” he said.

“My release in exchange for an American will be a source of peace between Afghanistan and Americans.”

“We have been persistent in our efforts to free [Noorzai], and now he is with us in his own country,” Muttaqi continued. He said the two men were swapped at Kabul’s international airport.

Noorzai is the second Afghan inmate released by the United States in recent months. In June, Assadullah Haroon was released after 15 years of detention in the United States’ notorious Guantanamo Bay prison.