Taliban leader hails prisoner exchange 'victory'

Sunday 01 June 2014 22.46
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Bowe Bergdahl was the only US soldier captured by the Taliban
Bowe Bergdahl was the only US soldier captured by the Taliban
Mullah Omar has hailed prisoner  exchange as a victory for the Taliban
Mullah Omar has hailed prisoner exchange as a victory for the Taliban

Taliban supreme leader Mullah Mohammad Omar has hailed the release of five senior insurgents in exchange for US soldier Bowe Bergdahl as a "big victory".

"I extend my heartfelt congratulations to the entire Afghan Muslim nation...for this big victory regarding the release of five Taliban leaders from Guantanamo prison," he said in a rare statement.

"I thank the government of Qatar, especially its emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad (Al Thani), who made sincere efforts for release of these leaders and for their mediation and for hosting them," he added.

Mullah Omar was Afghanistan's de facto head of state during their 1996-2001 rule over Afghanistan.

He has continued to lead the group's insurgency since they were ousted from power.

Mr Bergdahl, who was released on Saturday after being held for five years by the Taliban in Afghanistan, arrived in Germany this morning, according to the US military medical centre there.

The five transferred Taliban detainees have been named by the US State Department as Mohammad Fazl, Mullah Norullah Noori, Mohammed Nabi, Khairullah Khairkhwa and Abdul Haq Wasiq.

A Taliban source in the Pakistani city of Quetta told AFP that the five had been officials in the Taliban regime driven out by the US-led invasion of Afghanistan after the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States, and that they remained influential.

Mr Bergdahl is to remain at the Landstuhl centre in southern Germany while he continues what the US army called his "reintegration process", the base said in a statement today.

The base said there was "no pre-determined amount of time involved" for Mr Bergdahl's recovery process, adding the medical staff at Landstuhl were "sensitive" to what he had gone through and would "proceed with his reintegration at a pace with which he is comfortable."

Mr Bergdahl is the only US soldier captured by the Taliban since the war began in 2001.