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Five Taliban in Prisoner Swap Were Most-Senior Afghans at Guantanamo

  • VOA News

FILE - The sun rises above Camp Delta at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, Cuba. Five Taliban commanders were released by the United States in a prisoner swap to win the freedom of U.S. soldier Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl on May 31, 2014.

FILE - The sun rises above Camp Delta at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, Cuba. Five Taliban commanders were released by the United States in a prisoner swap to win the freedom of U.S. soldier Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl on May 31, 2014.

The five Taliban commanders released by the United States in a prisoner swap to win the freedom of an American solider were among the most senior Afghans held at the U.S. Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba.

All five were flown to Qatar, which has pledged to hold them for a year under terms the United States negotiated to win the release of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who had been held by the Taliban for nearly five years.

The U.S. captured the five terrorism suspects at least a decade ago.

All five were removed from battlefields in the first years of the U.S. effort to destroy Taliban military operations in Afghanistan believed responsible for the 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States.

They had formal government jobs when the Taliban ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001.

Some U.S. officials fear the five could eventually return to Afghanistan and renew their fight against the Afghan government and Western interests, as have other prisoners released from Guantanamo.

Ending combat operations

The United States is ending its combat operations at the end of 2014, withdrawing most of its troops and turning over more military and security operations to Afghan forces.

The five Talibanis released to Qatar included Khairullah Khairkhwa, who was known to have close ties to Osama bin Laden, the al-Qaida leader who was the mastermind of the 2001 terrorist attacks in the U.S. and later was killed in a U.S. raid on his Pakistani compound in 2011.

Abdul Haq Wasiq was the deputy chief of intelligence for the Taliban, while Mullah Mohammad Fazl was a senior Taliban army commander believed responsible for the killing of thousands of Shiite Muslims near Kabul between 1998 and 2001.

Mohammad Nabi Omari has been described as "one of the most significant" Taliban officials held at Guantanamo, with ties to the Haqqani network that was believed to have held Bergdahl.

Mullah Norullah Nori was a provincial governor in several Afghan areas during the Taliban rule.

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