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US: Kidnapped NY Times reporter escapes from Taliban: paper

21 Jun 2009 3:17 AM

WASHINGTON, June 20 AFP - A New York Times reporter kidnapped last November by the Taliban and held in the mountains of Afghanistan and Pakistan has escaped to freedom, the newspaper says on its website.

David Rohde and a local reporter, who were abducted outside Kabul along with their driver, "just walked over the wall of the compound" where they were being held captive in Pakistan's remote North Waziristan region, Rohde's wife Kristen Mulvihill told the Times after speaking with her husband.

Rohde and the Afghani reporter, Tahir Ludin, made their daring escape on Friday night and managed to find a Pakistani army scout who escorted them to a nearby army base. They were flown to Bagram US military base in Afghanistan, the newspaper reported on Saturday.

Their driver did not escape with them.

Rohde, 41, was said to be in good health, while Ludin injured his foot in the escape, according to the Times.

Although occasional reports of the abduction had found their way onto the Internet, the Times and other media had kept the kidnapping quiet out of a concern for the men's safety, it said.

"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. The kidnappers initially said as much," said Times executive editor Bill Keller.

Keller and the Rohde family declined to discuss details of any efforts to free the captives but stressed that no ransom had been paid and no Taliban or other prisoners were released.

Rohde won a Pultizer prize for his reporting on the massacre of Bosnian Muslims in Srebrenica for the Christian Science Monitor before joining the Times.

He was working on a book about the US involvement in Afghanistan when he was invited to interview a Taliban commander, but disappeared on November 10 after he left the Times bureau.

"We've been married nine months," Mulvihill said. "And seven of those, David has been in captivity."