Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Military rejects report of Bergdahl ‘conversion’

British news media say soldier is helping Taliban


By TONY EVANS
Express Staff Writer

Bowe Bergdahl, as seen in a Taliban video released to the Internet last spring.

Pentagon officials are denouncing reports in the British news media that captive U.S. soldier Bowe Bergdahl has converted to Islam and is helping train Taliban militants in terrorist tactics.

Bergdahl, who turned 24 in March, grew up near Hailey. He went missing from an Army base in Paktika province of Afghanistan on June 30, 2009, and was reported "missing captured" three days later. Since that time, Bergdahl has appeared in three Internet videos released by his captors.

The most recent video, which appeared in April, showed him, apparently healthy, calling for the end to U.S. military activity in the region and pleading for his freedom.

NATO spokesman Rear Adm. Gregory Smith said in April, "The continuing use of Pfc. Bowe Bergdahl as a means of propaganda is a deplorable act and only fuels our efforts to find him and bring him home."

So far, those efforts have failed. However, the Associated Press reported in July that documents made public that month include transcripts of radio transmissions among U.S. and Taliban forces in Afghanistan—intercepted after Bergdahl went missing from his base in southern Afghanistan—as well as reports from U.S. soldiers about talks with village elders about a possible prisoner swap.

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However, the report provided no information on why Bergdahl left his base. His whereabouts are still unknown.

The Daily Mail, based in London, reported on Sunday that a Taliban deputy district commander in Paktika, who called himself Haji Nadeem, said Bergdahl taught him how to dismantle a mobile phone and turn it into a remote control for a roadside bomb. Nadeem claimed he also received basic ambush training from the U.S. soldier, the newspaper reported.

"Most of the skills he taught us we already knew," Nadeem was reported to have said.

U.S. military spokesman Lt. Col. John Dorrian told Fox News on Monday, "The Taliban spokesmen are notorious for their puffery, and for exploiting captives through propaganda. We condemn his kidnapping and demand Spc. Berhdahl's immediate release by his captors. The perpetrators responsible for Spc. Bergdahl's abduction will be brought to justice if anything happens to him."

Tony Evans: tevans@mtexpress.com




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