Australian family ‘overjoyed’ at Taleban hostage release

SYDNEY (AFP) – The family of Australian academic Timothy Weeks said they were ‘overjoyed’ at his release by the Taleban in an Afghanistan prisoner swap that came three years after he was abducted.

The Taleban handed over Weeks and American Kevin King to United States (US) forces in southern Afghanistan on Tuesday in exchange for three high-ranking insurgent prisoners.

King and Weeks, both professors at the American University in Kabul, were kidnapped by gunmen wearing military uniforms in the heart of the Afghan capital in August 2016.

Weeks’ family said in a statement late Tuesday night they were “overjoyed that Tim has been released after more than three years in captivity”. The family thanked the Australian, US and Afghanistan governments for their efforts in securing his freedom.

“It is important that Tim now be given the time and space to start to come to terms with his experience,” the statement said.

During their captivity, the Western hostages appeared looking haggard in a Taleban video, with the insurgents going on to say that King was in poor health. National broadcaster ABC reported the men would be flown from Afghanistan to Germany for medical checks.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Weeks was in good condition “in the circumstances” and was undergoing medical assessments.

“This has been a great piece of work done in the interests of these two gentlemen and we couldn’t be more pleased to get them out safe and get them home to their families,” he told Sky News Australia.