Journalist escapes from seven months of Taliban captivity


New York : A New York Times reporter kidnapped by the Taliban and held for seven months in the mountainous region along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border has escaped along with an Afghan reporter, media reports said Sunday.

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David Rohde, 41, and Tahir Ludin, 35, Friday climbed over the wall of a compound where they were being held in the North Waziristan region of Pakistan. They made their way to a nearby Pakistani military base and were Saturday flown to the American military base in Bagram, Afghanistan.

Rohde, a two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner, was taken captive Nov 10 last year along with local reporter Ludin and their driver Assadullah Mangal, 24. Rhode was researching a book on Afghanistan. The driver, however, is still in captivity and it was unclear why he didn’t escape.

The kidnapping had been kept quiet by The Times and other media, who feared that publication of the news could endanger the lives of the captives.

“We agonized over it at the outset and, periodically, over the last seven months,” said The New York Times Executive Editor Bill Keller. “Of all the subjects we discussed with the family, that was the one we discussed more intensively than any other: Should we change strategy and go public?”

The reporter was beginning work on the book about the history of US involvement in Afghanistan. He had been held captive in 1995 in Bosnian Serb territory while reporting for the Christian Science Monitor on mass killings at the height of the Bosnian war.

Rohde’s wife Kristen Mulvihill expressed relief at the end of the ordeal.

“The family is so grateful to everyone who has helped,” Mulvihill said. “Now we just hope to have a chance to reunite with him in peace.”

“We’ve been married nine months,” she said. “And seven of those, David has been in captivity.”

As the American media widely reported about the escape, The Washington Post quoted senior US and Pakistani officials with knowledge of the case, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of diplomatic and security concerns, confirming the abductors initially demanded a multimillion-dollar ransom and the release of several insurgent commanders in exchange for Rohde’s safe return.

“There were intermittent communications with the kidnappers, who also provided several ‘proof of life’ videos confirming Rohde was alive. But sources said the family insisted on using private security consultants to resolve the case, and it was those consultants who insisted on an absolute news blackout,” said the Post.