Friday, December 10, 2010

Bergdahl shown in new Taliban video

Reports conflict as to who is holding soldier captive


By TONY EVANS
Express Staff Writer

IntelCenter photo Captive soldier Bowe Bergdahl is seen in a video released by his captors this week. He is reported to be standing beside a Taliban commander who once threatened to kill him if the U.S. did not call off airstrikes in certain regions of Afghanistan.

A new video that has not been widely distributed on the Internet has been reported by international news media to include four seconds of footage of Hailey-area native Bowe Bergdahl, a missing U.S. Army soldier captured in June 2009.

In the video—the fourth that shows Bergdahl in captivity—Bergdahl appears to be bruised or cut on the cheek and shorn of a beard he wore in previous videos.

According to MSNBC, the video was provided to reporters Wednesday by IntelCenter, a private, U.S.-based organization that tracks Islamic extremist activities and communications.

MSNBC reported that NATO spokesman Brig. Gen. Josef Blotz said the coalition was not sure if the footage was old or new.

"We are still investigating this case and hope Bowe Bergdahl is still fine," Blotz said.

Bergdahl has been held captive by the Taliban since he disappeared in Paktika province in eastern Afghanistan. He has appeared in three other videos released by the Taliban, on July 18, 2009, Dec. 25, 2009, and April 7, 2010.

In the videos, Bergdahl has pleaded for his life and for an end to U.S. military involvement in the region. U.S. military officials have repeatedly denounced his captors' use of Bergdahl as a tool for propaganda.

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The Associated Press reported Wednesday that Bergdahl was featured for "a fleeting moment in a terrorist video" and that this could be proof that the soldier is still alive.

Still photographs of Bergdahl, said to be from the video, have been distributed by IntelCenter. In the photos, Bergdahl is standing among pine trees beside a man identified by IntelCenter as Taliban commander Mawlavi Sangin.

In July 2009, Sangin's spokesman told The Associated Press in a telephone interview that Berghdal would be killed unless the U.S. stops strikes in Ghazni province's Giro district and Paktika province's Khoshamand district.

An October report from Sky News television in the United Kingdom reported a Taliban source as saying that Bergdahl was being held by al-Qaida militants rather than the Taliban.

Idaho National Guard spokesman Col. Tim Marsano, who has served in a U.S. military intelligence position in the Middle East, said al-Qaida was intent on spreading a radical form of Islam across the world, whereas the Taliban is a "homegrown" Afghan and Pakistani organization interested in political domination of Afghanistan.

However, Marsano said, "They're natural allies."

Marsano declined to comment on how negotiations for Bergdahl's return could differ depending on which organization is holding him captive.

Tony Evans: tevans@mtexpress.com




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