Biden calls for Taliban to release Mark Frerichs, hostage in Afghanistan from Lombard

Frerich’s younger sister Charlene Cakora, who lives in Lombard, has been waging a campaign for her brother’s freedom, fearing he will be forgotten.

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Monday marks two years the Taliban have held hostage Mark Frerichs, raised in Lombard.

Photo courtesy Charlene Cakora

WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden on Sunday called on the Taliban to immediately release hostage Mark Frerichs, with Monday marking two years the Lombard-raised man has been held captive in Afghanistan.

“The Taliban must immediately release Mark before it can expect any consideration of its aspirations for legitimacy. This is not negotiable,” Biden said in a statement, with no details about how the president plans to enforce his demand.

The release of Frerichs was never made a priority as the Trump and Biden administrations negotiated an end to our nation’s longest war, with the final U.S. troop withdrawal taking place at the end of August.

Frerich’s younger sister Charlene Cakora, who lives in Lombard, has been waging a campaign for her brother’s freedom, fearing he will be forgotten.

Cakora said in a statement, “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.”

Frerichs, 59, graduated Glenbard East High School in 1980 and served six years in the Navy, where he trained to be a diver. After the Navy, he worked as a general contractor, first in Iraq, then Afghanistan. He was living there for about 10 years and wrapping up work on a municipal water project when he was lured to a trap in Kabul and kidnapped on Jan. 31, 2020.

Cakora pleaded with Biden to get her brother released in an op-ed published in the Washington Post last week headlined, “President Biden, please bring home my brother, the last American held hostage in Afghanistan.”

She wrote, “When I tell people that there is still an American held hostage in Afghanistan, half reply with surprise, while the other half thinks there are hundreds. In fact, there is only one known American hostage: my brother, Mark Frerichs.”

Cakora has been pressing for Freirichs to be swapped for Bashir Noorzai, an Afgan drug dealer in U.S. custody for 16 years, a man she says the Taliban wants.

On Sunday, Biden said in a statement that Frerichs, “has done nothing wrong. And yet, for two years the Taliban has held him captive.

“Mark is a native of Illinois. A son. A brother. And his family has now endured two gut-wrenching years — praying for his safety, wondering where and how he is, aching for his return.

“Threatening the safety of Americans or any innocent civilians is always unacceptable, and hostage-taking is an act of particular cruelty and cowardice. The Taliban must immediately release Mark before it can expect any consideration of its aspirations for legitimacy. This is not negotiable.”

“To Mark, and to all the Americans being held hostage and wrongfully detained overseas, and to all their families and friends who are enduring the nightmare of their absence: Know that my administration will continue to work steadfastly until every American being unjustly held against their will comes home,” Biden said in the statement.

The president’s statement marks his first extended remarks about Frerichs and did not signal what, if any, diplomatic actions the administration may be considering.

Biden made a small mention of Frerichs in a July 8 speech about drawing down the U.S. troops in Afghanistan, when he said, “we’re going to continue to work for the release of detained Americans, including Mark — excuse me — Fre– Frerichs — I want to pronounce the name correctly; I mis- — I misspoke — so that he can return to his family safely.”

Cakora told the Chicago Sun-Times last year, “the war isn’t over until my brother comes home.”

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