GENEVA: Two Swiss former hostages who escaped their Taliban captors in March after eight months in North Waziristan told a newspaper on Sunday of their ordeal, giving a rare glimpse into the torn region.
As well as providing the first details of their escape, the couple painted a depressing picture of life in captivity, where their guards spent hours watching suicide-attack videos and fantasised about getting blown up by US drones.
Olivier David Och, 32, and Daniela Widmer, 29, were abducted July 1 while on holiday in Balochistan. They were returning by road from a trip to India. They said they spent months in a “sort of prison” near the market of Miramshah, in North Waziristan.
Och, a police officer from Bern, said the army staged a full-on attack the night of November 7, pummelling Taliban positions with artillery fire and strafing nearby houses from helicopters.
They stayed on Lala’s farm for the rest of their captivity.
“You could hear the drones all the time,” Widmer said. “By day, they’d fly high and sounded like lawnmowers. At night, they flew lower and you could hear them rumble.”
Conditions on the farm were better and the guards were not as vigilant. The couple stayed with Lala’s family, including his wife, step-daughter and six children.
“We ate the same as the family – unleavened bread, five or six potatoes with oil and salt,” said Och, who lost 22 kilogrammes in captivity.
Every two weeks, they were visited by Lala’s boss, who “figured high on the US list of people to kill. He slept in our room near Lala – the drones could have picked him off at any time,” Och said.
This senior Taliban member told them of the state of negotiations and that the Taliban were demanding a ransom of $50 million.
“We knew no one would pay that much,” Och told the newspaper. So they decided to try to escape. They stole two grenades and ran into the night.
“Better to die fighting,” Och said. “If they’d followed us we’d have used them.”
They wandered lost for hours before finding a military checkpoint. They said their ordeal did not end then and they were subjected to “painful episodes” they did not discuss.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 7th, 2012.