Taliban release US Navy reservist and brother held in Afghanistan

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Taliban special forces fighters arrive inside Hamid Karzai International Airport following the withdrawal of the US military, in Kabul, Afghanistan Tuesday, August 31, 2021. The Taliban released a US Navy reservist and his brother on Friday. (Khwaja Tawfiq Sediqi/AP)

A US Navy reservist and his brother were freed by the Taliban on Friday after a month-long campaign by the Biden administration to secure their freedom, the State Department said.

Safi Rauf and Anees Khalil, a US green card holder, were arrested in December. Former Afghan refugees founded the Human First Coalition, which worked to evacuate people fleeing the country after the Taliban captured Kabul last year. The group then turned to providing humanitarian aid to the war-ravaged country.

In a statement, Rauf credited UK, Qatari and US government officials, as well as “our family and loved ones” and “our Human First Coalition team, and countless friends in the country, region and across the the world. “

Both brothers are in Qatar, waiting to travel to the United States, State Department spokesman Ned Price said.

“We are grateful for the efforts of everyone who worked to secure their release, but there is still work to do,” Price said. “Unjustly holding Americans captive is always wrong, and we won’t stop until every American unjustly held against their will can hug their families again.”

Rauf enlisted in the Naval Reserve in 2017 and serves as a member of the hospital corps, according to his registered service provided by the Navy. He is assigned to Joint Base Andrews in Maryland. CNN first reported the brothers’ release.

The Biden administration is also calling for the release of Mark Frerichs, a Navy veteran, held by the Taliban before the Trump administration struck a deal with activists in February 2020 to end the 20-year war.

The New Yorker published a video of Frerichs pleading for his freedom on Friday.

Alex Horton of The Washington Post contributed to this report.

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