Timothy Weeks, Australian ex-hostage, visits Kabul and praises Taliban


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KABUL — An Australian teacher who was kidnapped in Kabul by Taliban forces in 2016, then released in an exchange deal with U.S. officials three years later, returned here Friday, saying he planned to “celebrate” the upcoming one-year anniversary of Taliban rule and that he “stood behind” the current regime.

Timothy Weeks, 53, arrived at Kabul’s international airport clad in a black tribal turban and white Afghan tunic. He told waiting journalists that he had first come to Afghanistan “with a dream to learn about Afghanistan, and now I’m coming again to complete my journey.”

Weeks converted to Islam during more than three years in Taliban captivity and changed his name to Buad Jibra’il Omar after returning home. He said Friday that during his stay, “I saw these people in a light that nobody else has been able to do.” He recently announced his plan to return for the anniversary to the Australian press.

He was one of two faculty members kidnapped from a van near the American University in Afghanistan, a large campus in Kabul where he had been teaching English, in 2016. The other was an American, Kevin King.

Both men were released in 2019 in an exchange for three senior Taliban members. One of them was Anas Haqqani, now a top member of the current Taliban leadership in Kabul.

Weeks’ return and public praise for the Taliban, just days before the one-year mark since its takeover of power, stood in sharp contrast to the criticism and concerns many international groups and Western governments have expressed recently about the Kabul regime’s tightening repression of women’s rights and other freedoms.

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