Ghani agrees to prisoner exchange deal with Taliban

The three Taliban prisoners that would be released include Anas Haqqani, above, who was seized in 2014. (AFP)
Updated 13 November 2019

Ghani agrees to prisoner exchange deal with Taliban

  • Decision to free 3 insurgents in return for 2 US lecturers ‘hard but necessary’

KABUL: Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said on Tuesday that his government would free three Taliban prisoners in return for two university professors held hostage by the group since 2016. Addressing the media, Ghani said his decision was part of efforts to engage in direct talks with the Taliban and end the country’s decades-old conflict.
American Kevin King and Australian Timothy Weeks were in a critical condition, he added. Both were abducted outside the American University of Afghanistan, in Kabul, where they were lecturers.
Ghani described his decision to release the three Taliban prisoners as “hard but necessary,” and said he hoped the move would deter “intensified attacks.”
He added: “In consultations with our international partners, especially the US, we have adopted a mechanism and approach to make sure the release of these three men wouldn’t reinforce the (front) lines of the enemy and lead to intensified attacks by them.”
One of the three Taliban prisoners set to be released is Anas Haqqani, son of the founder of the Haqqani network — the Taliban’s mighty military wing which has been accused of high-profile attacks on foreign and government forces.

HIGHLIGHT

One of the three Taliban prisoners set to be released is Anas Haqqani, son of the founder of the Haqqani network — the Taliban’s mighty military wing which has been accused of high-profile attacks.

Until recently, government officials had insisted that freeing Haqqani was akin to crossing a red line for Ghani’s government which had been excluded from several rounds of talks between the Taliban and US diplomats in Qatar last year.
The meetings had been taking place until September this year when US President Donald Trump abruptly declared the negotiations “dead.”
News of the exchange deal follows an unofficial resumption of talks between the Taliban and US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, who in the past had discussed the swapping of prisoners and visited Kabul and Pakistan in recent weeks to accelerate the process.
Some local media reported that the three Taliban prisoners had already been freed in Kabul and were flying to Qatar. However, government officials refused to comment on the matter when contacted by Arab News.
There was no reaction from the Taliban to Ghani’s announcement, which comes amid a deepening crisis related to a deadlock over election results.
Ghani is a frontrunner and — despite his objection to the secret talks between the Taliban and Khalilzad — has put peace negotiations with the Taliban as his priority if he wins the polls.


6 dead after man opens fire in Czech hospital waiting room

Updated 10 December 2019

6 dead after man opens fire in Czech hospital waiting room

  • The attacker opened fire at people’s heads from close range
  • Police published a photo of the suspect, having withdrawn an earlier photo of a different man

PRAGUE: Six people were killed in a shooting in a hospital in the eastern Czech Republic Tuesday, the prime minister said. Police said the suspect is at large and described him as armed and dangerous.

Prime Minister Andrej Babis told Czech public television the shooting took place around 7 a.m. in a waiting room. The attacker opened fire at people’s heads from close range, Babis said.

He said he was heading for the site, at the University hospital in the eastern city of Ostrava, 350 kilometers (220 miles) east of Prague.

Police said the man left in a silver-grey Renault Laguna car and called on the public not to try to stop him.

Police published a photo of the suspect, having withdrawn an earlier photo of a different man. They said that man was now considered to be a witness.

Video footage and pictures published by public radio showed police arresting a person at the site but that person did not appear to be the shooting suspect.

Officials say people have been evacuated from the clinic. Police are boosting security across the country.