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Taliban video shows final moments of US soldier's handover

© AFP/Al-Elmara

Text by Leela JACINTO

Latest update : 2014-06-04

The Afghan Taliban released a 17-minute video clip Wednesday showing the weekend’s handover of US Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl to American Special Operations Forces in eastern Afghanistan.

Dressed in an all-white shalwar kameez – the traditional garb of South Asia – with a striped shawl thrown over his shoulder, Bergdahl emerges from a pickup truck and stands rooted on a rocky plain as a Black Hawk helicopter hovers overhead.

The next few minutes are riveting as the chopper lands, its blades still rotating, and a handful of US Special Forces soldiers, their faces masked, emerge from the aircraft.

Overseen by Taliban fighters positioned on the nearby hills, a seemingly dazed, gaunt Bergdahl is led towards the Black Hawk by two militants, one of them brandishing a white flag.

The 17-minute video clip, which bears the insignia of al-Elmara, the Taliban’s primary media arm, was emailed to media organisations Wednesday, four days after Bergdahl was handed over to US forces in the eastern Afghan province of Khost near the Pakistan border.

Bergdahl’s release after five years of captivity has sparked a controversy in the US, particularly among Republican lawmakers. The 28-year-old native of Hailey, Idaho, was released in a prisoner swap that saw the transfer of five senior Taliban prisoners from a detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to Qatari custody.

Gen. Martin Dempsey, US chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has said the military would review the circumstances surrounding Bergdahl’s 2009 capture following allegations that he deliberately left his post in the eastern Afghan province of Paktika.

Bergdahl was held by the Haqqani network, an insurgent group affiliated with the Taliban, and is believed to have been held in the Pakistani tribal area of Waziristan.

A handover within a minute

The latest video of Bergdahl’s release follows a number of statements by the Taliban, including a rare public declaration by the movement’s reclusive chief, Mullah Omar, hailing the prisoner swap as “a big victory”.

The 17-minute video features an audio track that includes Taliban radio communication as the Black Hawk lands and a fighter briefing Bergdahl in Pashto about his release.

The actual handover takes place within a minute as US Special Forces troops usher Bergdahl toward the waiting helicopter, pat him down, and help him into the aircraft before boarding the Black Hawk as the audio plays a soaring Pashto song praising the Taliban.

The clip also includes the rather unusual sight of US Special Forces hastily shaking hands with the two Taliban militants accompanying Bergdahl before leading him to the helicopter, with some of the US troops guarding the rear waving goodbye to the militants.

Responding to the video release early Wednesday, the Pentagon said it was reviewing the clip although it had no reason to doubt the video's authenticity.

"Regardless, we know the transfer was peaceful and successful, and our focus remains on getting Sgt. Bergdahl the care he needs," said Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby.

Date created : 2014-06-04


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