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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Afghan accused of kidnapping American journalist sent to US for trial

The indictment, which was unsealed Wednesday, includes six counts, all of which could result in life imprisonment for Najibullah.

An Afghan man accused of kidnapping an American journalist and two Afghan civilians in 2008 was arrested and extradited from Ukraine to the United States for trial, US authorities said Wednesday.

Haji Najibullah, 44, “arranged to kidnap at gunpoint an American journalist and two other men, and held them hostage for more than seven months,” said the prosecutor in charge of the case, Audrey Strauss.

The Justice Department did not give the hostages’ names, but New York Times journalist David Rohde was kidnapped in Afghanistan in November 2008, along with a translator and driver. According to the Times, which managed to keep the news of his kidnapping secret so as not to endanger him, Rohde managed to escape his captors in June 2009.

Read more: Afghanistan, world’s least peaceful country: Who is responsible?

After more than seven months, Rohde, along with another kidnapping victim Ludin, who was an Afghan journalist, escaped from a jihadist-controlled compound in the tribal areas of Pakistan. A few weeks later, the third kidnapping victim and Rhode and Ludin’s driver, Asadullah Mangal escaped aswell.

Charges against Najibullah

In 2014, the indictment was sealed by the then US Attorney Preet Bharara obtained it. The same year, it was reported by The Times that Najibullah led a radical group that had a history of targeting journalists.

The indictment, which was unsealed Wednesday, includes six counts, all of which could result in life imprisonment for Najibullah. He is facing charges including hostage taking, conspiracy to commit hostage taking, kidnapping, conspiracy to commit kidnapping, and two counts of using and possessing a machine gun in furtherance of crimes of violence, reported Al Jazeera.

Read more: Senior Al-Qaeda leader and FBI’s most wanted terrorist killed in Afghanistan

He is accused of working with accomplices to abduct the three men in Afghanistan, and then forcing them to cross the border into Pakistan on foot, where they were held prisoner. The kidnappers had, according to the indictment, forced their hostages to call for help by telephone or in videos. In one of the recordings, the journalist was forced to plead for his life while one of his guards pointed an automatic rifle at his head.

The head guard of Rhode, Ludin and Asadullah, Timor Shah, and another guard who was among six armed guards who made hostages hike from Afghanistan to Pakistan, Akhund Zada was also charged in the indictment.

The Associated Press interviewed Ludin, the Afghan journalist in 2009. He stated in the interviews that he was hired by The Times to arrange an interview with the militant leader and to translate. He was working for the Time of London as a journalist at that time.

Read more: Afghanistan: A graveyard of empires?

Ludin disclosed that he was repeatedly threatened and beaten by the militant captors and did nots stick to the same demands. He further stated that he did not see any substantial evidence to claim that Rohde was beaten or harmed, nor did Rohde mention anything regarding this to Ludin.

“Journalists risk their lives bringing us news from conflict zones, and no matter how much time may pass, our resolve to find and hold accountable those who target and harm them and other Americans will never wane,” said Assistant Attorney General John Demers.

The circumstances of Najibullah’s arrest were not revealed.

AFP with additional information from Global Village Space.