Friday, May 6, 2011

Bergdahl video posted on Web

Officials: Old footage shot by Taliban


By TONY EVANS
Express Staff Writer

Video footage of captured soldier Spc. Bowe Bergdahl, apparently shot months ago, appeared on the Internet earlier this week, increasing concerns of retaliation by Bergdahl's captors for the recent killing of Osama bin Laden by U.S. forces.

The Agence France Presse news organization reported that the SITE terrorist monitoring group found the footage on jihadist Web forums on Wednesday. The Associated Press reported that Army spokesman Gary Tallman said officials have studied the video and agree that it appears to be old.

Bergdahl—a native of Hailey whose parents still live in the area—has been held captive since he disappeared in Paktika province in eastern Afghanistan on June 30, 2009. Al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden was killed by U.S. commandos on May 2 in Pakistan.

The six seconds of footage appear to have been shot at the same time and place as footage that appeared on the Internet in December. It shows Bergdahl being blindfolded and led away by Taliban commander Mawlavi Sangin (aka Sangin Zadrain, or Zadran), a member of the Haqqani network, a Taliban group that has been blamed for some of the deadliest anti-U.S. attacks in Afghanistan.

"From all appearances, this new video is from the same time period," said Idaho National Guard spokesman Col. Tim Marsano, who is the official military liaison with the Bergdahl family.

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"The Bergdahl family has no comment to make on the killing of Osama bin Laden and continues to take comfort in the support of their community," Marsano said.

Bergdahl has appeared in four other videos released by the Taliban, on July 18, 2009, Dec. 25, 2009, April 7, 2010, and Dec. 7, 2010. The most recent appeared on Wednesday, May 5.

In early 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.

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

An anonymous caller to the Idaho Mountain Express on Wednesday asked for news on how bin Laden's death could influence Bergdahl's captors.

Hailey Police Chief Jeff Gunter has known Bergdahl since he was a young boy. He said out of respect for the Bergdahl family, he would make no comments on the relationship between the death of bin Laden and the fate of Bergdahl.

Like may others in the city of Hailey, he maintains a spiritual vigil for the soldier's safety.

"I personally am still praying for his safe return," Gunter said.

Ribbons tied around fences and trees, American flags and numerous bumper stickers remain visible throughout the valley in a show of support for Bergdahl.

Tony Evans: tevans@mtexpress.com




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