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Now, President Joe Biden is joining the calls to release U.S. Navy Veteran Mark Frerichs.
His family has not seen or heard from the 59-year-old in the two years since he was lured into a trap and taken hostage by the Taliban in January 2020.
He is believed to be in the custody of the Taliban-linked Haqqani network.
They have lobbied first President Trump and now President Biden, doing whatever they can to bring attention to his story.
For the first time, President Biden issued a statement on the case Sunday saying, “The Taliban must immediately release Mark before it can expect any consideration of its aspirations for legitimacy. This is not negotiable.”
The statement came as Afghanistan faces a thorny humanitarian crisis following the U.S. withdrawal in August. The Taliban quickly seized control of much of the country and the foreign aid that been flowing into the country largely halted, putting at risk the lives of millions of Afghans who could starve or freeze to death.
“The United States has raised Mark’s case in every meeting with the Taliban,and we have been clear that the legitimacy the Taliban seek is impossible to consider while they hold a U.S. citizen hostage. His release is among our core, non-negotiablepriorities. We will continue to send a clear message to Taliban leadership: immediately andsafely release Mark and disavow the practice of hostage-taking,” the U.S. Department of State said in a statement.
“Threatening the safety of Americans or any innocent civilians is always unacceptable, and hostage-taking is an act of particular cruelty and cowardice,” Biden added.
“It was an act of cruelty and cowardice,” Rep. Raja Krishnamoorth, (D) 8th District, agreed.
Tomorrow marks two years since U.S. citizen Mark Frerichs was taken hostage by the Taliban. We call on the Taliban to release him. We will continue working to bring him home.
— Secretary Antony Blinken (@SecBlinken) January 30, 2022
Frerichs, who grew up in west suburban Lombard, was working as a civil engineer in Afghanistan for the last decade and was working on a municipal water project when he was kidnapped.
Charlene Cakora, Frerichs’ sister, issued a statement saying that her family is “grateful” for Biden’s words.
“My family is grateful for President Biden’s statement. This forceful recognition of Mark’s two years in Taliban custody is part of what we have sought from the Administration since they took office. But what we really want is to have Mark home. We know the President has options in front of him to make that happen and hope Mark’s safe return will become a priority for him personally,” she said.
“I am encouraged. He was strong, forceful and empathetic,” Krishnamoorth said regarding Biden’s statement.
Frerichs’ sister has said she believes the Taliban would release her brother in exchange for the release of an Afghan drug dealer named Bashir Noorzai, who has been in U.S. custody for 16 years.
In June 2021, Cakora also did an exclusive interview with ABC News, where she had a direct message for President Joe Biden: “You have the power to bring my brother home; please get my brother home safely. We are relying on you,” she said. “He’s an American citizen. And I know that you would not leave an American citizen behind.”
The Frerichs family is hoping the president’s statement is an indication that he is willing to negotiate.
The Associated Press contributed to this post.
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