Mullah Omar, the reclusive head of the Taliban, has purportedly released a statement hailing the transfer of the top five Taliban commanders from Guantanamo to Qatar. Omar says their freedom is a "great victory."
The five Taliban leaders were exchanged for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who has been held by the Taliban since 2009.
A copy of the statement attributed to Omar has been posted on the Taliban's Urdu-language web site.
Omar thanks the government of Qatar, as well as its emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad, for his help in brokering the deal and for hosting the Taliban leaders. In earlier statements, both President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry similarly thanked Qatar for its assistance.
Omar offers his "heartfelt congratulations to the entire Afghan Muslim nation," including "all the mujahideen and to the families and relatives of the prisoners for this great victory."
The Taliban had demanded the release of the five commanders from Guantanamo for years. In early 2012, the Taliban announced that it had established a "political office" in Doha for the expressed purpose of securing their freedom.
In addition to Omar's statement, the Taliban has also posted pictures of the now ex-Guantanamo detainees being greeted by supporters and family members in Qatar. As The Long War Journal has previously documented, all five were closely linked to al Qaeda prior to their detention and deemed "high" risks to the US, its interests, and its allies, according to leaked Joint Task Force Guantanamo (JTF-GTMO) threat assessments.
The first picture posted by the Taliban appears to show Mullah Norullah Noori, a senior Taliban military commander. According to a leaked JTF-GTMO file, Noori has been "wanted by the United Nations (UN) for possible war crimes including the murder of thousands of Shiite Muslims." He fought alongside al Qaeda in pre-9/11 Afghanistan.