Australian hostage returns to Afghanistan to celebrate Taliban one year in power

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Australian hostage returns to Afghanistan to celebrate Taliban one year in power

An Australian academic who was previously held hostage by the Taliban has returned to Afghanistan to celebrate the regime's one year in power.

Timothy Weeks was a teacher at the American University in Kabul in 2016 when he was abducted with his US colleague Kevin King and held hostage for three years.

The Taliban released videos of the captives, showing them pale and gaunt.

In one of the videos, Mr Weeks pleaded with the then Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull to negotiate his release.

A prisoner-swap deal was made in 2019 that saw the two men released in exchange for three Taliban prisoners, including Anas Haqqani, who is now a high-ranking Taliban commander.

After his release, the Australian teacher converted to Islam and praised the work of the Taliban.

Mr Weeks, who touched down in Kabul a few days ago, reiterated his support for the regime.

I came here with a dream to learn about Afghanistan and now I'm coming again to complete my journey. This is the second part of my journey, he said.

I am coming to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the governments of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, who I have stood behind. He was greeted by Taliban members who stood alongside him as he explained that he was back in the country to continue his Islamic studies.

One of the men freed in the prisoner-exchange deal, Anas Haqqani, met Mr Weeks.

Despite being held hostage for three years and the mammoth efforts it took by the Australian and United States governments to ensure his release, Mr Weeks said it was right to return.

I was a prisoner. It wasn't easy to beat. I was kept in difficult conditions, but I am here again, after all of this, he said.

Media reports surfaced earlier this year that Mr Weeks plans to return to Afghanistan, but the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has not answered questions about whether he was aware of his planned trip.

A DFAT spokeswoman said Australians should not travel to Afghanistan.

The Australian government is aware of reports that an Australian citizen, Timothy Weeks, may have returned to Afghanistan.

Australia's Travel Advice for Afghanistan is 'Do not travel' due to the extremely dangerous security situation and the very high threat of terrorist attack.

People who breach sanctions can face a raft of penalties, including up to 10 years in prison or substantial fines.