LOMBARD, il. (CBS) – Monday was the first day of freedom in two and a half years for Mark Frerichs, a suburban man detained by the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Frerichs was released on Monday in exchange of prisoners.
A naval veteran spent over a decade in Afghanistan as a civilian contractor when he was abducted in Kabul in January 2020. He was believed to have been held since then by the Taliban-linked Haqqani network.
Negotiations for his release focused on an agreement that would also include the release of Bashir Noorzai, a famous drug lord and Taliban member who told reporters in Kabul on Monday that he had spent 17 years and six months in American captivity.
Noorzai was serving a life sentence for drug trafficking.
CBS 2’s Charlie De Mar asked Northeastern Illinois University’s professor of history Mateo Mohammad Farzaneh why the release of Noorzai was so important to the Taliban.
“He is a master of the brain in finance because he previously financed the Taliban,” Farzaneh said.
The prisoner exchange is believed to be the first since the Taliban took control of Afghanistan last year.
“We have to note that they must have some semblance of normalcy with the Taliban regime,” Farzaneh said. “But again, it all has to be in the background of 9/11 and the role the Taliban played in the att*cks.”
Speaking at Monday’s press conference, Noorzai himself reiterated the importance of his release and the potential for cooperation between the Taliban and the United States.
“It took difficult decisions to get the negotiations that led to Mark’s freedom to a successful resolution that I didn’t take lightly,” said President Joe Biden in a statement. “Our priority now is to give Mark a healthy and safe return and the space and time he needs to return to society.”
As reported by Jackie Kostek of CBS 2, the Frerichs family in Lombard breathed a sigh of relief on Monday. Frerichs’ father, Art, owns an auto repair shop in Lombard, and said he left the American flag outside the workshop shortly after his son was captured. Since then, it remains with half the staff.
But on Monday morning the family finally received the call they had prayed for.
Meanwhile, a prisoner of war flag flutters in front of the house of Frerichs’ youngest sister Charlene. Charlene did not want to speak to the camera, but said Monday morning that the phone came at 3:36. It was a good kind of all-night conversation.
President Biden was on the line from England to say the Taliban had released Brother Charlene. The president said Frerichs was lucky to have her for a sister. She served as the spokesman for the family.
“She just told me they pulled him out,” said Art Frerichs.
Elder Frerichs said he appreciated the FBI for their hard work and keeping his family informed about the entire process.
“I think what really helps is all the people who were – that we know and all prayed for him, and I think there’s a lot to say about prayer,” he said.
Art Frerichs credited the FBI with informing his family of the entire trial, and US Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-Illinois) pressed for Mark Frerichs’ release.
Duckworth issued a statement which reads: “It is a deep relief that Mark Frerichs, a naval veteran who has served our people with honor, is now safely back in American hands following a kidnapping in Afghanistan more than two and a half years ago. I am delighted that his family, who has been a longtime advocate for Mark, will reunite with him. ” I congratulate President Bidecn, with whom I personally spoke about the need to bring Mark home, for taking the necessary steps to prove that we are not leaving the Americans behind.
Senior White House officials today called “a good day,” saying Frerichs’ release after two and a half years was “the culmination of an extraordinary amount of effort and concern by the US government, which for many months has been trying to get him out of bondage and safety.”
They say Frerichs appears to be in stable health and has been offered a range of support options.
Frerichs’ father, for his part, says that he never gave up hope that his son would survive and be released. It was all they could do from January 2020 – survive the days.
Art Frerichs doesn’t know when he will see his son or what he will say when he does.
“I think it will be spontaneous if I can say anything,” said Art Frerichs.
Mark Frerich’s sister Charlene said she didn’t know when she would see her brother or when he might be returning to the United States. But knowing he was safe, she said Monday night that she would be able to do something, she had not slept soundly for a long time.
Meanwhile, Art Frerichs will have some time to collect his thoughts as it is not entirely clear when Mark Frerichs will return to American soil. He is currently with us officials in Doha, Qatar.
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