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Bergdahl was ‘tortured, caged’

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Taliban kept him in a metal cage in the dark for weeks

Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl in a file image.
Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl in a file image.

Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl has told people treating him at a U.S. military medical facility in Germany that he was tortured, beaten and held in a cage by his Taliban captors in Afghanistan after he tried to escape, a senior U.S. official said on Sunday.

Sgt. Bergdahl, who was released on May 31 to American forces in exchange for five Taliban detainees from Guantanamo Bay prison, is being treated at the U.S. military hospital in Landstuhl, Germany.

A U.S. military official said Sgt. Bergdahl is physically well enough to travel back to the United States for treatment. He is suffering from disorders affecting his skin and gums that could be expected after his long captivity, the official said, confirming a report in The New York Times .

The newspaper reported on Sunday that Sgt. Bergdahl told medical officials in Germany the Taliban kept him in a metal cage in the dark for weeks after he tried to escape.

Sgt. Bergdahl’s release and the exchange deal with the Taliban, which was brokered by Qatar, has provoked an angry backlash in Congress over the Obama administration’s failure to notify lawmakers in advance that Taliban prisoners were leaving the Guantanamo prison camp.

The ex-prisoners were sent to Qatar where they will remain for at least a year under certain restrictions. Stoking the controversy, some of Sgt. Bergdahl’s former comrades have charged he was captured by the Taliban in 2009 after deserting his post.

U.S. military leaders have said the circumstances of Sgt. Bergdahl’s capture are unclear. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has urged critics to wait for all the facts to be known before rushing to judgment on Bergdahl.

As details on his treatment emerged, Secretary of State John Kerry defended Sunday the swap deal, telling that Sgt. Bergdahl was at risk of being tortured by his captors.

“It would have been offensive and incomprehensible to consciously leave an American behind, no matter what, to leave an American behind in the hands of people who would torture him, cut off his head, do any number of things,” Mr. Kerry told CNN’s State of the Union program.

‘Committed to pact’

Five leading Afghan militants freed from Guantanamo Bay in exchange for a U.S. soldier have pledged to honour an agreement between the Taliban and Qatar, which is hosting them.

The men., all officials from the previous Taliban regime, said in a statement posted on their Pashto-language website on Friday that they would remain faithful to an agreement with Qatar, which mediated their release.

“We want to reassure all sides that we are still holding to the agreement which was reached between the Islamic Emirate [the Taliban] and the government of Qatar on our release,” they said, urging the release of fellow Taliban militants held in Guantanamo.

— AFP, AP, Reuters

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