Taliban say prisoner swap promised by Kabul fails to happen

The three Taliban prisoners included Anas Haqqani (pictured above). (File/Reuters)
Updated 16 November 2019

Taliban say prisoner swap promised by Kabul fails to happen

  • The three Taliban prisoners included Anas Haqqani, the younger brother of the Taliban’s deputy chief Sirajuddin Haqqani, who leads the fearsome Haqqani militant network
  • They were to be exchanged for American University of Afghanistan professors, American Kevin King and Australian Timothy Weeks

ISLAMABAD: Three Taliban prisoners who were to be freed in exchange for an American and an Australian national, both kidnapped in 2016, are still in custody in Bagram prison, north of the capital Kabul, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said Friday.
The three Taliban prisoners did not show up at an exchange site that had been agreed upon with the US, though Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said they would be freed.
Mujahid had no explanation for the no-show.
The three Taliban prisoners included Anas Haqqani, the younger brother of the Taliban’s deputy chief Sirajuddin Haqqani, who leads the fearsome Haqqani militant network. They were to be exchanged for American University of Afghanistan professors, American Kevin King and Australian Timothy Weeks.
Mujahid said the professors are still in Taliban custody.
In a televised address to the nation on Wednesday, Ghani said the “conditional release” was a very hard decision to make.
Prisoner releases were a key point during peace talks between the US and Taliban last year. US President Donald Trump abruptly ended the talks in September, following a spate of violent attacks in Kabul that killed more than a dozen people, including a US soldier.
The prisoner exchange was seen as a possible door to restarting the talks. US peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad has crisscrossed the region in recent weeks meeting with Washington’s NATO allies, as well as Russia, China, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
President Ghani has repeatedly demanded his government be included in talks with the Taliban, who have refused saying the Afghan government is an American puppet.
Ghani is now in the middle of a controversial contest for his job as president following Afghanistan’s Sept. 28 elections, which drew allegations of widespread misconduct and fraud.
Preliminary results were supposed to be released on Thursday, but have once again been postponed.
Ghani had hoped a big win in the presidential polls would solidify his political position, but the recount of ballots has been challenged by his main rival, Abdullah Abdullah, who shares power in Afghanistan’s coalition government.
That government was cobbled together after the 2014 presidential elections, which were so deeply overwhelmed by allegations of fraud that the United States stepped in to broker a power sharing agreement between Abdullah and Ghani.


Two Emiratis claim Guinness record titles

Footballer Areej Al-Hammadi, who plays for the UAE National Football Team, broke the record for soccer ball ‘hotstepping,’ and fitness expert Walid Yari smashed the record for the most side jump pushups in a minute.
Updated 04 August 2020

Two Emiratis claim Guinness record titles

Guinness World Records, the global authority on record-breaking achievements, has announced that two Emiratis — footballer Areej Al-Hammadi and fitness expert Walid Yari — are the newest title holders in the region.
Al-Hammadi, who plays for the UAE National Football Team, broke the record for soccer ball “hotstepping,” completing 86 repetitions of the ball control trick in 1 minute. She broke the previous record of 56 in the UK. Yari, meanwhile, smashed the record for the most side jump pushups in a minute, completing 33 flying pushups in a single minute, where the previous record stood at 26 in India.
The two Emiratis’ achievements were announced at the launch of Guinness World Records Day 2020, which is themed “Discover Your World.” The initiative is encouraging people to take on a new challenge now that lockdown measures are easing, or simply turn a newfound skill or talent into a world record attempt.
Known as “The Beast of the Middle East,” Yari is a 34-year-old fitness professional and social media content creator. He is taking the region by storm with a growing fan base of more than 650,000 followers on Instagram.

I am incredibly proud to be a Guinness World Records title holder and excited to help celebrate the launch of Guinness World Records Day this year. It is proud moment for me, for my country, and for women around the world.

Areej Al-Hammadi, Emirati Footballer

“I encourage people to swap their burgers for burpees and get into shape with unique training routines that resemble something that can only be visualized in a film,” said Yari. “I have been training almost all my life, and I was ready the minute I knew about Guinness World Records Day. So, I set up my cameras the next day, and filmed the entire scene to smash the previous record title,” said Yari.
Al-Hammadi has paved her way to the top of women’s football in the MENA region. She is a creative services professional by day, and a footballer by night. She has lived most of her life chasing opportunities in football, forming football teams both in school and during higher studies at the American University in Dubai, and attending many of the women’s football championships within the MENA region, before she finally made it to the UAE National Football Team.
“I am incredibly proud to be a Guinness World Records title holder and excited to help celebrate the launch of Guinness World Records Day this year. It is a proud moment for me, for my country, and for women around the world. Why football? Because it is my passion,” said Al-Hammadi.
Guinness World Records Day 2020 will take place globally on Nov. 18.