Mark Frerichs, an American 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 been a top priority for President Biden and his national security team,” the official said.
Haji Bashir Noorzai, a prominent member of the Taliban, who was in prison in the US on drug trafficking charges for 17 years, was granted clemency as part of the deal, the official said.
Frerichs, a Navy veteran from Illinois, was kidnapped in late January 2020 while he was doing construction contract work in Afghanistan. He was believed to be held by the Haqqani network, which is a faction of the Taliban. He was missing for less than a month before the US signed a peace deal with the Taliban.
Frerichs was able to walk on his own onto the aircraft, a source familiar with the matter said, and his physical and mental condition appear good. He is currently in Doha, Qatar.
Frerichs’ family praised Biden for securing his release, with his sister, Charlene Cakora, saying in a statement, “there were some folks arguing against the deal that brought Mark home, but President Biden did what was right. He saved the life of an innocent American veteran.”
“I am so happy to hear that my brother is safe and on his way home to us. Our family has prayed for this each day of the more than 31 months he has been a hostage,” Cakora said. “We never gave up hope that he would survive and come home safely to us.”
Earlier this year, The New Yorker published a video of Frerichs pleading for his release – the first time the Illinois native had been seen in years.
“I’ve been patiently waiting my release,” Frerichs says in the brief video, which he says is being recorded on November 28, 2021.
Since her brother’s kidnapping, Cakora has called on the US government to do more to secure his release, escalating those calls in the lead-up to the US withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2021.
Earlier this year, the Biden administration secured the release of Afghan-American Naval reservist Safi Rauf and his brother Anees Khalil, a US green card holder, who had been detained by the Taliban since December.
This story has been updated with additional details.