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US President Joe Biden warns Taliban: If you want legitimacy, then free the last American hostage in your captivity

The US has rejected Taliban's demand for swapping of American Mark Frerichs for Bashir Noorzai, an Afghan drug lord

It has been two years since the US contractor Mark Frerichs was taken hostage by the Taliban. He was abducted by the UN designated terror organisation on January 31, 2020, just a month before the US and Taliban agreement was signed. Since then, the US has been raising Frerichs' release in each and  every meeting  with the Taliban.

“The Taliban must immediately release Mark before it can expect any consideration of its aspirations for legitimacy. This is not negotiable,”  Biden  warned. He made it clear to the Taliban regime in Afghanistan that the release of the American prisoner was the first condition for Taliban's "aspirations for legitimacy".

 “His release is among our core, non-negotiable priorities. We will continue to send a clear message to Taliban leadership: immediately and safely release Mark and disavow the practice of hostage-taking,” said Biden.

Frerichs, a contractor  who was previously from the US Navy, was abducted by the Haqqani Network in the Khost area on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, a stronghold of the Haqqanis. Since then, he has apparently been held under the custody of the Haqqani Network. Sirajuddin Haqqani who is now the Interior Minister of Taliban ruled Afghanistan also heads the HQN. He too is a US designated terrorist with a bounty of $10 million.

Earlier, the Taliban had proposed for a prisoner exchange, swapping Frerichs for Bashir Noorzai, an Afghan drug lord and close to the chief of the Haqqani Network and Interior Minister of the Taliban regime Sirajuddin Haqqani. Noorzai is serving a life sentence in the US for the  smuggling of drigs. On Sunday, Biden also rejected the Taliban’s demand, refusing to enter into a swap deal.

Also Read : Taliban hold back American hostage Mark Frerichs, want Afghan drug lord set free from US prison in exchange

Earlier, before the Taliban’s capture of Kabul last year in August, the US had offered $5 million for information that leads to Frerichs location and return. The US had also approached Pakistan, which has close ties with the Haqqani Network, to put pressure on the terror group.

The high flying Afghan drug lord, Bashir Noorzai was arrested in New York in 2005 and sentenced in 2009 to life in prison on drug and conspiracy charges. He was convicted of importing  $50 million worth of heroin from Afghanistan and Pakistan into the US and other countries. Currently he is serving his sentence in a US jail. At the time of his arrest, Noorzai was on a US government target list of the most powerful and dangerous narcotics traffickers in the world and was nicknamed the Pablo Escobar of the Middle East.

According to sources, the Biden administration is also in touch with the Pakistani Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa for the release of its hostage which has become the top priority for President Biden.

Also Read: Taliban denies having the last American hostage in its custody