US Soldier Held By Taliban For Five Years Freed

A US soldier held for nearly five years by the Taliban in Afghanistan has been released in a prisoner swap.

Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, from Idaho, was freed in exchange for America turning over five Taliban detainees held in Guantanamo, to Qatari custody.

Sources say he is “weakened, scared and vulnerable”, and is undergoing a medical examination in Germany.

His release follows months of indirect contact with the militants, with Qatar acting as intermediary.

The parents of the freed soldier, Bob and Jani Bergdahl, said in a statement that they were “joyful and relieved.”

“We cannot wait to wrap our arms around our only son,” they said.

In a statement, US President Barack Obama said: “On behalf of the American people, I was honoured to call his parents to express our joy that they can expect his safe return, mindful of their courage and sacrifice throughout this ordeal.

“Today we also remember the many troops held captive and whom remain missing or unaccounted for in America’s past wars.

“Sergeant Bergdahl’s recovery is a reminder of America’s unwavering commitment to leave no man or woman in uniform behind on the battlefield.

“And as we find relief in Bowe’s recovery, our thoughts and prayers are with those other Americans whose release we continue to pursue.”

Mr Obama expressed his gratitude to the Amir of Qatar for helping secure the soldier’s release, and also the support of the Afghanistan government.

Sgt Bergdahl was taken prisoner in the Paktia Province of Afghanistan on June 30, 2009.

His father, Bob, has previously published a video to raise awareness about his son’s ordeal and to try to secure his release.

Mike Baker, a former CIA operations officer, told Sky News: “It’s been a long time coming.

“It’s been a very frustrating exercise over the years, in part because for quite along time it was not clear who we were supposed to be negotiating with.

“People are extremely happy here he’s back.”

On the US policy not to negotiate with terrorists and concerns the exchange could lead to further hostage-taking, Mr Baker said this was a consideration, but added: “We had to get our guy back.

“We have a very strict policy as does the UK, we don’t leave people behind. This was just a festering wound for all of these years. It had to be dealt with.”

31 May 2014 | 9:45 pm – Source: orange.co.uk
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