Friday, April 9, 2010

‘I want to go home’

Taliban releases new 7-minute video of Bowe Bergdahl

Express Staff Writer

Bowe Bergdahl, as seen in the latest Taliban video release.

Hopes have been raised once again that captive Army Pfc. Bowe Bergdahl is alive and could be released by his captors. A video released Wednesday by the Taliban offered to free Bergdahl in exchange for a "limited" number of prisoners held by the United States.

The seven-minute video of the soldier from the Hailey area comes nine months after he was captured in the Paktika province of Afghanistan. In the video, released by a group calling itself "the Mujahideen of the Islamic Emirat of Afghanistan," Bergdahl is wearing an Army jacket and camouflage pants and has a full beard.

"I pray to God to see my family and friends again," he says in the video.

He names friends and family in the Wood River Valley and at times seems to be fighting back strong emotions.

"Let me go. Let me be released. This war isn't worth the waste of human life ... the amount of life that has been wasted."

He continues, "I'm a prisoner. I want to go home."

The video shows Bergdahl reading a newspaper and doing a few push-ups, apparently to indicate that he is in good health. Bergdahl says that he is given "the freedom to exercise, to be a human being, even though I'm a prisoner."

The video marks the first time Bergdahl has been seen since a video of him was released on Christmas Day 2009. That video called for the release of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani U.S.-trained neuroscientist convicted in a U.S. court for the attempted murder of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan.

The Taliban threatened to kill Bergdahl if Siddiqui and 21 Afghan prisoners were not released. The U.S. State Department has not responded to the offers for a prisoner exchange but has said that federal officials are working to locate and free Bergdahl.

"The Bergdahl family takes heart in seeing the video of a healthy Bowe, but it is difficult to say when the video was shot," said Col. Tim Marsano, public affairs officer for the Idaho National Guard and official liaison to the Bergdahl family. "There are questions in their minds as to just how he is doing, but they are hopeful."

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Bergdahl's family, whom he mentions by first names in the video, lives in Blaine County near Hailey.

In an Associated Press report Thursday, NATO spokesman Rear Adm. Gregory Smith said, "The continuing use of Private First Class Bowe Bergdahl as a means of propaganda is a deplorable act and only fuels our efforts to find him and bring him home.

"The insurgents who hold Bowe are obviously using him as a means to ultimately cause pain to his family and friends. It continues to reflect the cruel tactics designed to deceive the Afghan people and the international community of their true intentions."

Bergdahl, who was raised in Blaine County, disappeared June 30, 2009. He is a member of the 1st Battalion, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, based at Fort Richardson, Alaska. He entered the Army in June 2008. He is the only known American serviceman in captivity.

The Wood River Valley community has rallied around Bergdahl and his family. Posters and bumper stickers echo a call to "Bring Bowe Home." Trees, lightposts, fences and other fixtures in the valley are adorned with yellow ribbons in his honor.

Tony Evans:

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