American Mark Frerichs, who was held captive in Afghanistan for more than two years, has been released in a prisoner swap, a senior Biden administration official confirmed Monday.
“Bringing Mark home has always been a priority for President Biden and his national security team,” the official said.
As part of the deal, key Taliban member Haji Bashir al-Nurzai received clemency after serving 17 years in prison in the United States on drug-trafficking charges, the official said.
Frerichs, a Navy veteran from Illinois, was kidnapped in late January 2020 while working on a construction contract in Afghanistan. He is believed to be controlled by the Haqqani Network, a faction of the Taliban. He disappeared for less than a month before the United States signed a peace deal with the Taliban.
Freirichs was able to get on the plane by himself and appeared to be in good physical and mental condition, a person familiar with the matter said. He is currently in Doha, Qatar.
Frerichs’ family praised Biden for securing his release, and his sister Charlene Cakora said in a statement: “There were people who opposed the deal to bring Mark home, but President Biden did the right thing. He saved an innocent man. the lives of American veterans.”
“I am so happy to hear that my brother is safe and on his way home. Our family has prayed for this every day during the more than 31 months he has been held hostage,” Kakola said. “We never gave up hope that he would survive and go home safely.”
Earlier this year, The New Yorker released a video of Frerichs pleading for release — the first time the Illinois native has been seen in years.
“I have been patiently awaiting my release,” Freirichs said in the brief video, which he said will be recorded on November 28, 2021.
Since her brother was kidnapped, Kakora has called for the U.S. government to do more to secure his release, escalating those calls ahead of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2021.
Earlier this year, the Biden administration secured the release of Afghan-American Navy reservist Safi Rauf and his brother Anes Khalil, a U.S. green card holder who has been detained by the Taliban since December .
This story has been updated with more details.