Taliban free two US citizens in 'goodwill gesture', State Department says

Release comes same day as Taliban ban women going to university

A Taliban security guard at the Afghanistan-Pakistan border in Spin Boldak. AFP
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The Taliban have freed two Americans in detention in Afghanistan, the State Department said on Tuesday, on the same day the militant regime faced condemnation for banning women at universities.

"This we understand to have been a goodwill gesture on the part of the Taliban," State Department spokesman Ned Price said.

"This was not part of any swap of prisoners or detainees. There was no money that exchanged hands."

The two Americans were released to Qatar, which has played a key role in supporting US interests in Afghanistan since the Taliban takeover.

Mr Price said that confidentiality rules forbade him from offering more details on the two Americans.

CNN reported that one of them was Ivor Shearer, a filmmaker arrested in August with his Afghan producer, whose fate is unclear, while filming the site of a US drone attack that killed Al Qaeda leader Ayman Al Zawahiri.

US special representative to Afghanistan Thomas West welcomed the release of the two prisoners.

"We wish them good health and a safe return to their families," Mr West wrote on Twitter.

Meanwhile, the US condemned the Taliban for banning women from universities, saying it would impose costs on the militants.

"The irony of them granting us a goodwill gesture on a day where they undertake a gesture like this to the Afghan people, it's not lost on us." Mr Price said.

"But it is a question for the Taliban themselves regarding the timing of this."

The US has repeatedly condemned the Taliban's track record since the militants swept back to power last year when President Joe Biden pulled out US troops, leading to the collapse of the two-decade-old government.

But the Biden administration said the Taliban were largely helpful in letting out US citizens during the takeover.

Updated: December 20, 2022, 9:35 PM