Timothy Weekes makes a statement on camera while in captivity.
Timothy Weekes makes a statement on camera while in captivity.

Aussie hostage released by Taliban coming home

Timothy Weeks, the NSW teacher released by the Taliban after three years in captivity, is expected to return home to Australia today.

The 50-year-old is due to fly into Sydney this evening but is not expected to front the media.

The Taliban released the Australian and his American colleague Kevin King, 63, as part of a hostage swap deal on November 20.

The two academics were abducted in 2016 outside the American University in Kabul where they worked as teachers.

In exchange for their release, three ranking Taliban prisoners were released by Kabul.

Mr Weeks, an English teacher from Wagga Wagga, and Mr King were handed over to US forces.

The release is understood to have taken place in the Now Bahar district, a region largely under Taliban control.

Australian professor Timothy Weeks and his American colleague Kevin King.
Australian professor Timothy Weeks and his American colleague Kevin King.

Their freedom came hours after the Afghan government freed the three Taliban prisoners. They included Anas Haqqani, the younger brother of Taliban deputy Sirajuddin Haqqani who also leads the fearsome Haqqani network.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Mr Weeks had endured "three years of absolute hell" but was in good spirits.

"Tim is in a safe place, he's out, and he's coming home," Mr Morrison told reporters when news of their release broke.

"We look forward to that very, very much."

Mr Weeks' family said they were grateful for the Australian government's role in securing his release, as well as the United States and Afghanistan.

"We thank our friends and extended family for their love and support over the past three years during this very difficult time," the family said in a statement said.

Timothy Weeks before his capture.
Timothy Weeks before his capture.

In 2017 Weeks and King featured in two Taliban-issued videos.

One in January depicted them pale and gaunt, while in the later, the two men looked healthier and said a deadline for their release was set for June that year.

Both said they were being treated well but remained prisoners and appealed to their governments to help set them free.

It was impossible to know whether they were forced to speak.

US officials subsequently said American forces had launched a rescue mission but the captives were not found at the raided location.

The prisoner swap was intended to try to restart talks to end Afghanistan's 18-year war and allow for the eventual withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan.

The FBI released these images in 2016.
The FBI released these images in 2016.