The Taliban have released two Western hostages, the American Kevin King and Australian Timothy Weeks, after holding them captive for more than three years, a senior US official and the prime minister of neighboring Pakistan said on Tuesday.

An American official who was aware of the release said that professors at the American University of Kabul, who had been kidnapped at gunpoint in August 2016, were now in the hands of the United States. Their state of health was being assessed and both being debriefed, added the official who was not allowed to talk to the media about it.

“We appreciate the steps taken by all involved to make this possible,” Prime Minister Imran Khan said via Twitter . 

“As a member of the international community working to restore peace and put an end to the suffering of the Afghan people, Pakistan has fully supported and facilitated this release as part of its policy of supporting initiatives for a settlement. negotiated policy of the Afghan conflict. “

Taliban claimants said the two hostages were returned to Zabul province , on the border with Pakistan. The Taliban said that ten Afghan soldiers had also been released.

King, the American hostage, suffered from “serious” and “multiple” health problems, according to a Taliban leader in Zabul province.

Let our news answer your inbox. News and stories that matter, broadcast in the morning on weekdays.

“The American professor had serious health problems when we handed him over to the US and Afghan authorities,” he added, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not allowed to speak. to the press.

The Western hostages were released in exchange for Taliban members Anas Haqqani, Haji Maali Khan and Hafiz Rasheed Ahamd Omari, according to the Taliban.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has also confirmed the release of professors.

“Tim’s family has asked for confidentiality. They asked the Australian government to express its relief after the long ordeal and to thank everyone who contributed to Tim’s safe return, ” he added on Twitter.

The American University of Afghanistan welcomed the new shortly after the announcement.

“The AUAF community shares the relief of Kevin and Timothy’s families and we look forward to providing all possible support to Kevin and Tim and their families,” the statement said.

The exchange raises hopes that talks between the United States and the Taliban could resume after President Donald Trump has ended a possible agreement to withdraw US troops from the country and end the longest war of America. Negotiations failed on 7 September and we still do not know if and when they will resume.

“These actions are a step forward in the goodwill and confidence-building measures that can help the peace process,” the Taliban said in a statement on Tuesday.