ISLAMABAD: A Swiss couple held captive by the Pakistani Taliban for over eight months were on Thursday recovered safely, claiming they escaped their captors in the lawless tribal belt, the army said.
“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,” spokesman Major General Athar Abbas told AFP.
Olivier David Och, 31, and Daniela Widmer, 28, were abducted on July 1, 2011.
Their blue Volkswagen van was found abandoned in Loralai district, around 170 kilometres east of Quetta.
“They are safe and sound. We shifted them to Peshawar,” spokesman Major General Athar Abbas told AFP.
The Pakistani Taliban claimed the abduction in July, 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.
Pakistani officials speaking to AFP could not say whether the couple was released in exchange for a ransom or any acceptance of demands from the Pakistani Taliban, which is linked to al Qaeda.
The Swiss embassy refused to comment when contacted by AFP.
In October, a video emerged of the couple — apparently in relatively good health — flanked by four masked gunmen pointing rifles at their heads.
Pakistani officials said the Taliban released the couple in Spilga village in North Waziristan, the strongold of Taliban and al Qaeda.
“They were found near a check post on the main road early in the morning,” one Pakistani security official told AFP on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the media.
Another intelligence official said the Swiss were then flown by helicopter to Peshawar.
Waliur 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 they were “completely in good health”.
According to visas stamped in their passports, the Swiss couple arrived in Pakistan from India on June 28.
The pair entered Balochistan from Punjab and may have been heading for Quetta, possibly en route to Iran, officials in Islamabad have said.
Switzerland has advised against non-essential travel to Pakistan since 2008, citing risks including the threat of kidnapping.