Timothy Weekes makes a statement on camera while in captivity.
Timothy Weekes makes a statement on camera while in captivity.

Freed Aussie hostage in ‘good condition’

Prime Minister Scott Morrison says Australian academic Tim Weeks is in good spirits after being released by the Taliban.

Weeks, along with his American colleague Kevin King, was freed overnight three years after they were abducted in Afghanistan.

"The foreign minister has spoken to the family this morning and as a result, as you'd expect, they are just completely overjoyed," Mr Morrison told the Seven Network this morning.

"Also for Mr King, I'm sure his family there are equally overjoyed."

The prime minister thanked the United States for ending "three years of absolute hell" for Mr Weeks.

"Obviously the family has now asked that their privacy now be respected but I understand he is, under the circumstances, in good condition and he's currently going through all of those assessments as you'd expect."

"This has been a great piece of work done in the interests of both of these gentlemen, and we couldn't be more pleased to finally get them out safely and get them home to their families."

 

Australian professor Timothy Weeks and his American colleague Kevin King.
Australian professor Timothy Weeks and his American colleague Kevin King.

Mr Weeks, 50, and Mr King, 63, who were grabbed outside the American University in Kabul in 2016, were freed in exchange for three members of the Taliban's Haqqani Network.

The two men were handed over to US forces in Afghanistan's southern Zabul province and flown out in a US helicopter, The Associated Press reports.

White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham indicated Mr Weeks, from Wagga Wagga in NSW, was in the care of US officials and receiving medical care this morning (AEDT).

Mr Weeks' father Mervyn was notified of his release in a phone call from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Mervyn Weeks told ABC he was very relieved but that he had yet to speak to his son and was unsure of his whereabouts and plans.

A Weeks' family statement on Tuesday night asking for privacy.

"We are grateful for the efforts of the Australian government in securing Tim's release," it read.

"We would like to thank the United States government for the significant role it played in securing Tim's freedom and acknowledge the important contribution of the government of Afghanistan.

"We thank our friends and extended family for their love and support over the past three years during this very difficult time.

"While we understand the intense public interest in Tim's release, we do not want to comment further."

 

Timothy Weeks before his capture.
Timothy Weeks before his capture.

Mr Morrison late yesterday tweeted his relief at Mr Weeks' release and said he was "profoundly pleased".

Mr Morrison issued a joint statement with Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne which thanked US President Donald Trump and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.

"We regard this release as one of a series of confidence-building measures that are taking place in Afghanistan. We hope that such measures will set the stage for a ceasefire and intra-Afghan dialogue," the statement read. 

Mr King's family released a statement saying he was also safe with US officials and getting the medical care he needs before his return home to be reunited with his family.

Their freedom came hours after the Afghan government freed the three Taliban prisoners. They included Anas Haqqani, the younger brother of Taliban deputy Sirajuddin Haqqani who also leads the fearsome Haqqani network. It appears the Taliban had refused to hand over the two professors until they received proof their men had reached Qatar.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani a week ago announced the "conditional release" of the Taliban figures on state television.

Little is known of Mr Weeks's circumstances since he disappeared from view three years ago, The Australian reports

 

 

It is likely Mr Weeks and Mr King have been moved frequently. According to The Australian, there is no suggestion the two have been tortured.

The Taliban, generally treats its prisoners well, if only because it recognises their value as potential bargaining chips.

In 2017 Weeks and King featured in two Taliban-issued videos.

One in January depicted them pale and gaunt, while in the later, the two men looked healthier and said a deadline for their release was set for June that year.

Both said they were being treated well but remained prisoners and appealed to their governments to help set them free.

It was impossible to know whether they were forced to speak.

US officials subsequently said American forces had launched a rescue mission but the captives were not found at the raided location.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien made separate calls to Ghani on Monday to discuss the prisoners' release.

The swap was intended to try to restart talks to end Afghanistan's 18-year war and allow for the eventual withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan. 

Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said on Tuesday evening the decision had obviously been a difficult one but had been made by Ghani in good faith. 

 

 

 

 

The FBI released these images in 2016.
The FBI released these images in 2016.


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