A professor and Montgomery County native who has been held captive by the Taliban is one of two men scheduled to be released as part of a prisoner exchange, Afghan and U.S. officials said Tuesday.
Kevin C. King, 63, was born in Norristown and raised in the Philadelphia suburbs, relatives told the New York Times. He and Timothy J. Weeks, who is Australian, were working as English professors at the American University of Afghanistan in Kabul when they were abducted at gunpoint outside the school in August 2016.
Their release was negotiated between the Taliban and the Afghan government. In exchange, Afghan government officials said they would release three senior Taliban figures, including Anas Haqqani, younger brother of the Taliban’s military operations leader.
In a televised news conference, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said the negotiation was a “tough but important decision" made in the interests of the Afghani people. He said he hoped that it would pave the way for peace talks with the Taliban.
Officials did not say where the men are being held or specify when they might be released. A representative of the Embassy of Afghanistan in Washington on Tuesday confirmed the planned release of the men but declined to provide more information.
In a statement, the American University of Afghanistan said school officials were encouraged to hear the news: “While AUAF is not part of these discussions, we continue to urge the immediate and safe return of our faculty members who have been held in captivity, away from their friends and families, for more than three years.”
It was not immediately clear whether King still has ties to Pennsylvania. He attended the University of Miami and has since taught around the world, according to the Times.
After his kidnapping, U.S. Special Operations forces launched rescue missions but could not locate Weeks and King. In January 2017, the two professors pleaded for their lives in a video that was released by the Taliban, tearfully begging President Donald Trump to negotiate for their release. They appeared thin and short of breath.
“If you do not negotiate with them, we will be killed,” Weeks said, according to the Washington Post.
A video released in June 2017 showed them with long beards and hair, speaking into a camera. “My captors treat me well, they treat me and my colleague, Tim Weeks, as their guests,” King said. “But every prisoner’s final wish is to get freedom.”