Afghan journalist recounts captivity, brazen escape

Tahir Ludin was abducted with a New York Times reporter. Tahir Ludin was abducted with a New York Times reporter.
Associated Press / June 23, 2009
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NEW YORK - Two journalists held over seven months by the Taliban in Pakistan endured death threats before they escaped by tricking guards and dropping down a 20-foot wall with a rope, according to one of the former captives.

Afghan journalist Tahir Ludin provided the details in an interview published yesterday by The New York Times.

Ludin was held captive along with David Rohde, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist at the Times who grew up in Maine and graduated from Brown University, and their driver, Asadullah Mangal.

Ludin said the past two to three months seemed so “hopeless’’ that he considered committing suicide with a knife.

Ludin said the driver appeared to be overwhelmed by fear of their captors and had not participated in the escape.

The journalists were abducted Nov. 10 near the Afghan capital of Kabul. They escaped Friday.

They plotted to keep their captors awake as late as possible to ensure they would eventually sleep soundly. Ludin challenged them to a board game.

At 1 a.m., Rohde woke Ludin, who recited several verses of the Koran and followed him out of the room. They made their way to the second floor.

Ludin got to the top of a 5-foot-high wall. When he looked down, he was greeted by a 20-foot drop.

Rohde handed Ludin a rope that he had found two weeks earlier and had hidden from the guards. They fastened the rope to the wall, and Ludin lowered himself along the rope.

He crashed to the ground, suffering a sprained right foot, cuts, and bruises. Rohde then lowered himself along the wall and jumped without injury.

After 15 minutes, Ludin said, they arrived at a Pakistani militia post. In the darkness, a half-dozen guards who suspected they were suicide bombers aimed rifles at them and shouted for them to raise their hands.

“They said, ‘If you move, we are going to shoot you,’ ’’ he said.

Ludin said he was shivering in the darkness, and it took 15 minutes to convince the guards that they had been kidnapped.