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Qatar helps facilitate release of US aid worker from Taliban custody – Doha News


The Gulf state has played a key role in mediating the release of detainees in different parts of the world.

Qatar helped facilitate the release of US aid worker Safi Rauf and his brother, Anees Khalil, a British citizen, from the Taliban’s custody on Friday.

The siblings had been held by the Taliban since 18 December after they were arrested whilst doing licensed humanitarian work in Afghanistan. Rauf, 27, is a former Afghan refugee who joined the US Navy Reserves as well as the founder of the Human First Coalition alongside his brother.

According to the CNN, which broke the story, the brothers transited through Qatar. In a statement published by the Human First Coalition, Rauf thanked the Qatari, US and British governments for their efforts in releasing him and his brother.

Mother of US journalist detained in Syria seeks Qatar’s help

“We were released due to the efforts of the US government […] our family and loved ones, the Qatari government, the British government, our team at Human First Coalition, and countless friends in country, in the region, and all over the world,” said Rauf.

The former detainee noted that their arrest was “a misunderstanding” and denied any wrongdoing.

The US also thanked Qatar for helping secure the siblings’ release.

“We are grateful for the efforts of all those who worked to secure their release but more work remains. Unjustly holding Americans captive is always unacceptable,” said the US State Department spokesman Ned Price.

A US State Department official told CNN that an interagency team had “conceived, planned out, and executed” in order to release the brothers. The official added that talks to release Mark Frerichs continue to take place.

Frerichs is an American Civil Engineer who was kidnapped by the Haqqani network in January 2020. Reports stated that the Taliban offered to release Frerichs in exchange for the release of Bashir Noorzai, who was arrested in the New York in 2005 and received a life sentence in 2009.

Noorzai faced drug and conspiracy charges.

According to CNN, the Taliban has detained at least eight Westerners since they seized power in August last year. Rauf and his brother were among those detained at the time.

The founders of Human First Coalition had established the non-governmental organisation to help vacate those who were unable to flee Kabul, as mass evacuations took place.

Qatar managed to carry out history’s largest airlift of people as the events unfolded by evacuating more than 70,000 Afghans and foreigners.

The Gulf state also played a key role in mediating the release of detainees in different parts of the world.

In November last year, Qatar helped release seven Turkish civilians who were held by Libya’s Khalifa Haftar’s forces for two years.

According to Daily Sabah, Turkey’s National Intelligence Organisation (MIT) and Ankara’s foreign ministry had worked with Qatari intelligence to ensure the safe release and return of the ex-detainees.

During the same month, Qatar helped facilitate the release of American journalist Danny Fenster from Myanmar’s prison after being sentenced to 11 years for incitement.

In January, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian reportedly requested Qatar’s help in brokering the release of Iranian-Americans and Iranian-Europeans jailed in Tehran.

There have since been no updates on the matter from Qatari and Iranian officials.

The mother of American journalist, Austin Tice, who has been held hostage in Syria since 2012, has also called on Qatar to help address her son’s case. Debra Tice had told Axios that Qatar could help secure her son’s release if it receives approval from the US.

Tice was abducted by the Assad regime whilst reporting in Darayya, a Damascus suburb, on 13 August, 2012, a year after peaceful protests demanding the ouster of Assad turned into a bloody war.

There have been no updates on whether Tice’s release was brought up during the meeting between US President Joe Biden and Qatar’s Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani in late January.


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