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Canadian Hostage Freed By The Taliban After 5 Years In Captivity

A Canadian man has been freed five years after he was abducted by the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Canada's minister of foreign affairs, Stéphane Dion, announced that efforts to secure Rutherford's release were successful. "We look forward to Mr. Rutherford being able to return to Canada and reunite with his family and loved ones," Dion says, without providing details of when that might happen.

He also gave no specifics about how the release happened or whether it involved ransom, saying only, "I extend my heartfelt thanks to the Government of Qatar for its assistance in this matter."

Qatar has routinely acted as an intermediary with various groups in the Middle East to secure the release of foreign hostages.

As Dan Karpenchuk tells our Newscast unit, the Taliban had accused Rutherford of spying but the Canadian said he was merely a tourist. The Taliban claims he was freed "on grounds of humanitarian sympathy and sublime Islamic ethics," Karpenchuk reports, adding, "Afghan officials say a helicopter landed to scoop up 31-year-old Colin Rutherford, while fighter jets flew overhead."

CBC reports that Rutherford's brother, Brian, said, "We are obviously overjoyed with the news!"

A Taliban video released in 2011 purportedly shows Rutherford identifying himself as "an auditor from Canada." When asked what interests him about Afghanistan, he replied, "History, the historical sites. Old buildings, shrines." He said he was taken hostage on his second day after arriving in Ghazni province, which is near Afghanistan's border with Pakistan.

He said he was treated "humanely" by the Taliban.

The Taliban has also reportedly been holding an American woman named Caitlan Coleman and her Canadian husband, Joshua Boyle, since 2012. The Associated Press says that, like Rutherford, the two were taken hostage when they visited Afghanistan as tourists. Coleman's family has said she was pregnant at the time of her capture.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Merrit Kennedy is a reporter for NPR's News Desk. She covers a broad range of issues, from the latest developments out of the Middle East to science research news.
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