ISLAMABAD: The two Swiss tourists recovered in Pakistan on Thursday after a more than eight-month kidnapping ordeal told officials that they had escaped their Taliban captors, the army said.
“They are safe and sound. We shifted them to Peshawar,” spokesman Major General Athar Abbas told AFP.
“They told us that they escaped and then they reported to our checkpost. That's what they told intelligence agencies currently debriefing them in Peshawar,” added the spokesman.
Olivier David Och, 31, and Daniela Widmer, 28, were abducted at gunpoint in the southwestern province of Balochistan on July 1.
The Pakistani Taliban claimed the abduction soon after, demanding that they be exchanged for Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuro-scientist sentenced in 2010 in New York for the attempted murder of US government agents in Afghanistan.
The Swiss embassy refused to comment when contacted by AFP.
The Taliban released the couple in Spilga village in North Waziristan, the most notorious Taliban and al Qaeda stronghold in Pakistan’s semi-autonomous tribal belt that borders Afghanistan, Pakistani officials said.
“They were found near a checkpost on the main road early in the morning,” a security official had told AFP earlier on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the media.
Wali-ur Rehman, deputy head of the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan, had claimed the kidnapping, telling AFP in July that they were in “a very safe place” and that the were “completely in good health”.
In October, a video had emerged showing the couple – apparently in relatively good health – flanked by four masked gunmen pointing rifles at their heads.
In the video, which has been posted on YouTube, the man holds up a Pakistani newspaper dated September 15 and the couple speak Swiss German.
Och is a policeman in canton Bern, while Widmer is a former policewoman from the same force, although a Bern police spokeswoman had stressed: “They were travelling in Pakistan in a private capacity.”
The couple’s blue Volkswagen van was found abandoned in Killi Nigah after they were snatched in Loralai district, around 170 kilometres east Quetta.
According to visas stamped in their passports, they had entered Pakistan from India on June 28. The pair had entered Baluchistan from Punjab and might have been heading for Quetta, perhaps en route to Iran, officials had said.
This was the first known kidnapping of Swiss citizens in Pakistan. Since 2008, Switzerland has advised against non-essential travel to Pakistan, citing risks including the threat of kidnapping.