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 on Sunday with their members released from a high-security US-controlled 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 their colleagues remains unclear.
The three Indian engineers have not been named. Taliban had never formally claimed responsibility for the kidnappings. 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.
Most abducted were from Jharkhand
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 release of its engineers. KEC, however, refused to pay, the sources said. A part of RPG Enterprises, KEC is involved in infrastructure 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 in Islamabad. It was the first meeting since talks between the two sides collapsed after President Donald Trump called off his plan to host a Taliban delegation in the US a month ago. The prisoner swap, according to Taliban sources, was one of the issues discussed in the recent meeting with Khalilzad.