Friday, December 18, 2009

Hint of new Bergdahl video raises hopes

Red Cross joins in search for soldier


By TONY EVANS
Express Staff Writer

Friends and family of Pfc. Bowe Bergdahl have renewed their hopes for his safe return after learning that a new video of the soldier may soon be released by his captors.

Bergdahl, a 23-year-old Blaine County native, was captured June 30 in Paktika province in Afghanistan near the Pakistan border, where he was serving in the U.S airborne infantry.

SITE Intelligence Group, a U.S.-based terrorist tracking organization, said Wednesday that al-Imara Media Productions, the Afghan Taliban's media arm, was set to release a video titled "One of Their People Testified."

The SITE report said "they do not name the American captive, but it seems to reference Bowe Bergdahl."

"We are very anxious to see it and to see that he is doing well," said Hailey Police Chief Jeff Gunter, a close friend of the Bergdahl family. "Everyone is still holding tight and praying and standing by Bowe. This ignites it all again."

In late November, the first news in more than four months regarding Bowe Bergdahl came in the form of e-mails to two U.S Army doctors in New Jersey. The messages, which the doctors said came from Afghan village leaders and doctors, said Bergdahl was "alive and doing well."

Also in November, members of the International Committee of the Red Cross carried out their first visits to prisoners held by the Taliban militia in Afghanistan since the conflict began in 2001. Red Cross spokesperson Carla Haddad Mardini said in a news release Tuesday that "access to this prisoner (Bergdahl) remains a priority. We are in contact with different armed groups, different people, different parties to try to gain access to this person and ensure he can re-establish contact with his family."

The statement suggested Bergdahl was being held captive in Afghanistan.

Mardini told the Idaho Mountain Express that Red Cross policy prohibits releasing any information on detainees publicly.

On Wednesday, the news came from SITE that a video of Bergdahl was forthcoming. When and how the video will be shown remains unknown.

The last video of Bergdahl was released July 19, apparently by Taliban militants. Bergdahl was interrogated in the 28-minute video by a man who spoke excellent English and seemed intent on presenting the Taliban in a favorable light.

Since that time no videos have been released and there has been little mention of Bergdahl in the international news media.

The Associated Press reported that U.S. military officials have searched for Bergdahl, but it is not publicly known whether he is even being held in Afghanistan or neighboring Pakistan.

At a Pentagon press conference in Washington, D.C., Defense Department Press Secretary Geoff Morrell said, "Ever since Pfc. Bowe Bergdahl went missing, it has been a top priority for our forces, particularly in (the) East, to find him, recover him, bring him home safely."

Tony Evans: tevans@mtexpress.com

(The AP contributed to this report.)




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