Taliban release Afghan-American Naval reservist and his brother
The Taliban release Afghan-American Naval reservist and his brother who were held captive for 105 days after helping people flee war-torn Afghanistan’s hardline rulers
- Safi Rauf and Anees Khalil were freed by the Taliban on Friday
- The brothers had been held for 105 days in Afghanistan
- They founded the Human First Coalition to help people flee Taliban rule
- Both are US citizens after arriving from Afghanistan as children
- Rauf spent four years in Afghanistan as a linguist with US special forces
An Afghan-American Naval reservist and his brother were released by the Taliban on Friday after months of negotiations by the Biden administration.
Safi Rauf and his brother Anees Khalil were taken prisoner in December as they worked to help people flee Afghanistan‘s hardline rulers.
They founded the Human First Coalition, which worked with the Digital Dunkirk movement to rescue those at risk of Taliban persecution.
‘On December 18, 2021, my brother Anees Khalil and I were engaged in humanitarian aid work in Afghanistan when we were taken into the Taliban’s captivity and were subsequently held by them for the last 105 days,’ Rauf said in a statement published by his organisation.
‘Our understanding is that this exceptionally unfortunate situation arose due to a misunderstanding; we did nothing wrong.’
And he thanked everyone who worked ‘tirelessly’ to secure their freedom.
The State Department announced Friday that Naval reservist Safi Rauf and his brother Anees Khalil had been released by the Taliban after spending 105 days in Taliban custody
Rauf and his brothers founded the Human First Coalition to help desperate Afghans flee the country’s hardline rulers and the chaotic departure of US troops in Afghanistan last year
Rauf was born in a refugee camp in Pakistan before reaching the US. He served with U.S. special forces in Afghanistan before enlisting in the US Navy reserves
Their release was confirmed by the State Department, which said they had been ‘unjustly detained.
Spokesman Ned Price said they were now in Qatar en route to the United States.
‘We are grateful for the efforts of all those who worked to secure their release, but more work remains,’ he said.
‘Unjustly holding Americans captive is always unacceptable, and we will not stop until every American who is being unjustly held against their will is able to hug their families once again.’
The Taliban seized Kabul in August last year, upending President Joe Biden’s hopes of an orderly withdrawal of U.S. troops.
It led to a frantic mission to evacuate U.S. citizens and Afghans who worked with American forces.
That work continues, to both free Westerners in Taliban custody and to help vulnerable Afghans flee the country.
They include Mark Frerichs, a fifty-nine-year-old civil engineer and Navy veteran, who was abducted in Kabul in 2020.
In February a British journalist Andrew North was released along with another journalist and Afghan citizens after being detained while they did work for the United Nations.
Mark Frerichs has been held by the Taliban since 2020. His captors say they are willing to negotiate Frerichs’s release and want to swap him for an Afghan druglord held in US prison
Frerichs has been held by the Taliban for almost two years since being abducted in Kabul
Another British man, former cameraman Peter Jouvenal, was seized in Kabul at the end of last year and remains in custody.
Kidnappings have long been a tactic of the Taliban, used as a tool to spread fear and to generate income from ransoms.
Last year, Afghanistan’s rulers made clear how they planned to use the tactic again. They have been pressing to swap Frerichs for an Afghan drug lord serving a life sentence in a U.S.
In his statement, Rauf said he and his brother would keep working for Afghans.
‘At this time, we are looking forward to reuniting with our family and loved ones and ultimately, I hope we can continue to advocate for and seek ways to serve the Afghan people in this critical time of need in Afghanistan,’ he said.
His organization was involved in aiding the escape of the Afghan translator who helped rescue Joe Biden from a remote valley in Afghanistan in 2008.
Aman Khalili – who assisted US troops who rescue Biden after his helicopter made an emergency landing during a snow storm back when he was a US senator visiting the country – made it out after a harrowing journey involving multiple safe houses, Taliban checkpoints, and tense moments where he nearly turned back.
‘It was as clandestine as it gets,’ Rauf told DailyMail.com at the time.