News

Dramatic Taliban video shows Bergdahl release

Dramatic Taliban video shows Bergdahl release

BOWE BERGDAHL: A Taliban militant speaks to U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl (R) waiting in a pick-up truck before his release at the Afghan border, in this still image from video released June 4. Photo: YouTube/Al-Emara via Reuters TV

POW
Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl

By Jessica Donati and Hamid Shalizi

KABUL (Reuters) – A dazed Bowe Bergdahl is led by two militants, one carrying a makeshift white flag on a stick, to a Blackhawk helicopter in eastern Afghanistan ending his five years’ in captivity, a video released by the Taliban showed on Wednesday.

In the first publicly aired footage of Bergdahl’s dramatic handover to the U.S. military at the weekend, the clip shows Taliban cadres dotted on nearby hills armed with rocket launchers watching the transfer.

The operation, from the moment the helicopter touched the ground amid a cloud of dust to take-off, was all over in a minute.

“Do not panic,” the militants shout as the Blackhawk lands in the barren valley deep in Khost province, close to the border with Pakistan.

Bergdahl, a U.S. army sergeant, was released on Saturday in exchange for five senior insurgent leaders, who had been held in a U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, since it opened in 2002.

Before his rescue, Bergdahl is seen sitting in the rear seat of a 4-wheel-drive truck, blinking rapidly, apparently either dazed by the light or anxious about the events unfolding around him.

A plane and helicopters are seen circling overhead as fighters chant “long live our mujahideen” and “long live the spiritual leader”, referring to the Taliban’s reclusive Mullah Mohammad Omar.

As the Blackhawk lands, two of the militants approach the helicopter, one carrying a white cloth crudely tied to a stick and the other leading Bergdahl by the hand.

Three men walk from the American chopper. One is an interpreter, the Taliban’s reporter says in the clip.

TENSE 60 SECONDS

One of Bergdahl’s escorts has his faced covered by a checkered scarf and in the cloud of dust thrown up by the Blackhawk, the tension is clear. Soldiers dressed in military fatigue stand by the helicopter observing the handover.

One of the American team steps forward to shake their hands, keeping as wide a distance as possible as though worried the militants might blow themselves up.

He quickly offers his right hand to one, his left hand to the other and simultaneously grabs Bergdahl by the arm. In the same movement, he sweeps his hand across to Bergdahl’s back.

“We told them: if he is not in good health, please tell us. We tried to communicate with them through their interpreter, but they did not wait,” the Taliban reporter says in the clip.

As the first man leads the freed prisoner to the aircraft, the interpreter waves and the second man steps backwards, his eyes still trained on the Taliban.

A careful but rapid body search is performed before Bergdahl is helped aboard the Blackhawk. Then, they take position with their legs dangling and lift off.

The video starts playing a Taliban victory song and the message in English flashes up: “Don’ come back to Afghanistan”. Then, it cuts to the arrival of the five released leaders in Qatar after more than a decade spent in Guantanamo Bay, where they are received with warm embraces.

The video’s authenticity could not be independently verified. The Pentagon said it had no reason to doubt its authenticity, but was reviewing it.

“COME AGAIN, YOU WON’T LEAVE ALIVE”

Bergdahl was captured by the Taliban after leaving his base in unclear circumstances and spent five years in captivity, learning Pashto and taking an interest in Islamic books, according to the Taliban.

The 28-year-old is now in a military hospital in Germany, undergoing physical and mental assessments.

Bergdahl appears clean-shaven, in a traditional, white salwar kameez as he squints at the Taliban militants outside leaning in to talk to him. His head is also shaved.

They tell him: next time you come back to Afghanistan, you will not leave alive.

Eighteen fighters, the Taliban’s reporter explains, dot the hills around the valley as agreed with the Americans, including some armed with rocket-launchers.

The initial euphoria over Bergdahl’s release has been clouded by claims by fellow soldiers who say the U.S. sergeant deserted his post in 2009 and too many lives were lost in the manhunt that followed.

Some members of Congress also say the president broke the law by not giving them advance notice of the swap.

(Writing by Jessica Donati; Editing by Jeremy Laurence)

Recent Headlines

in Entertainment

Today in entertainment history: March 27

beatles

A look back on Hollywood headlines of years past.

in Sports

Top-seeded Wisconsin & Arizona hang on to advance to Elite 8

Arizona forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, left, passes the ball as head coach Sean Miller watches during practice, Wednesday, March 25, 2015, in Los Angeles, for a college basketball regional semifinal game in the NCAA Tournament. Arizona is scheduled to play Xavier on Thursday.

Top-seeded Wisconsin rallied in the final 10 minutes to hold off North Carolina 79-72 Thursday night and advance to the final eight of the NCAA Tournament.

in Sports

Kentucky overwhelms West Virginia & Notre Dame beats up Wichita State to move on to Elite 8

Kentucky's Dakari Johnson answers questions during a news conference before practice at the NCAA college basketball tournament in Cleveland, Wednesday, March 25, 2015. Kentucky plays West Virginia in a regional semifinal on Thursday.

Demetrius Jackson scored 20 points and the third-seeded Irish dominated Wichita State 81-70 in the Midwest regional semifinals on Thursday night to advance to the Elite Eight for the first time in 36 years.

in Sports

NCAA concerned with Indiana religious objections bill

NCAA President Mark Emmert answers a question at a news conference Sunday, April 6, 2014, in Arlington, Texas.

NCAA President Mark Emmert says the association is concerned about an Indiana law that could allow businesses to discriminate against gay people.

in Entertainment

‘Downton Abbey’ to end after season six

This photo released by PBS and Carnival Film and Television Limited shows, from left, Lesley Nicol as Mrs. Patmore, and Sophie McShera as Daisy, in a scene from season four of the Masterpiece TV series, "Downton Abbey." As it returns for its much-awaited fourth season, it remains a series about elegance, tradition and gentility, and the pressures of preserving them. The show premieres Sunday, January 5, 2014 at 9 pm ET on PBS.

Producers confirm that the next season of "Downton Abbey" will be the last.

Bellingham Traffic