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U.S. and Afghan journalists escape Taliban captors

IFEX members Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) expressed relief after a "New York Times" reporter and Afghan journalist escaped from their Taliban captors on 19 June, following more than seven months in captivity.

David Rohde, a Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist, and his Afghan fixer, Tahir Ludin, managed to escape by climbing over the wall of the Taliban compound in the North Waziristan region of Pakistan. They made their way to a nearby Pakistani military base, and were flown to the U.S. military base in Bagram, Afghanistan.

Rohde, Ludin and their driver, Asadullah Mangal, were abducted on 10 November outside of Kabul as Rohde was travelling to interview a Taliban commander in Logal Province for a book he was writing about Afghanistan. They were intercepted and taken by other militants on the way. Mangal remains in captivity.

Most news outlets and press freedom organisations respected a request from the "Times" to not report on the abductions because the publicity could have negatively affected hostage rescue efforts and imperilled Rohde's life.

"From the early days of this ordeal, the prevailing view among David's family, experts in kidnapping cases, officials of several governments and others we consulted was that going public could increase the danger to David and the other hostages," said Bill Keller, the executive editor of the "Times".

Ludin said in an interview following his escape that he and Rohde had been threatened with death by their captors. The past two to three months were so "hopeless," Ludin said, that he considered committing suicide.

The "Times" said there had been "sporadic communication" from Rohde and his kidnappers during the last seven months but that no ransom money had been paid. It has not been made known who took Rohde and Ludin captive.

Violence has risen steadily across Afghanistan over the past three years. Rohde was taken during a period when attacks against Westerners spiked. Canadian journalist Mellissa Fung was kidnapped in Kabul and a Dutch reporter was taken just outside Kabul around the time Rohde was abducted. Both were released within a month.

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