Taliban Releases Video showing of American Hostage Handover
The Taliban has released a video showing American hostage Sgt Bowe Bergdahl being handed over to US forces in Afghanistan.
The video, emailed to the media, shows him being handed over close to the Afghan border with Pakistan.
In it Sgt Bergdahl, clean shaven, dressed in white Afghan clothing and with a shaved head, is seen waiting in a white pick-up truck as Taliban militants outside lean in to talk to him.
He is blinking frequently in the bright light as he looks at and listens to his captors. He appears to struggle to speak English.
The 17 minutes of footage shows armed gunmen dotting the hills around the valley, as Black Hawk helicopters overhead draw closer to the meeting point.
The Taliban reporter speaking over the clip explains: “We told them there are 18 armed fighters and the Americans said that’s alright,” the male voice said.
As one of the helicopters lands throwing up a cloud of dust, Sgt Bergdahl is led to his rescuers by two men, one leading him by the hand and another waving a white cloth crudely tied to a wooden stick.
Most of the Taliban have their faces covered with scarves, while Sgt Bergdahl wears his over his shoulders.
After a brief exchange of handshakes between insurgents and US soldiers, Bergdahl moves unsteadily towards the helicopter.
Before boarding the helicopter the freed man is patted down to check he is not carrying any weapons.
The aircraft takes off and the message in English flashes up: “Don’ come back to Afghanistan”.
The Taliban video, entitled Ceremony Of The American Soldier Exchange has a male voiceover. It is laced with religious music and chants of “Allahu Akbar” (God is greatest).
At one point the voiceover said: “I congratulate all the mujahedeen for this victory.”
Sky’s Diplomatic Editor Tim Marshall said: “The meaning of the pictures is that we see visual evidence that the Taliban are negotiating with the Americans on almost an equal basis.
“It is a propaganda coup for the Taliban.”
US defence officials have said dozens of US special forces troops backed up by helicopters were sent for the handover.
Five years after he was captured by Afghan militants, Sgt Bergdahl was freed at the weekend in exchange for five militants held at Guantanamo Bay.
He was the only US soldier held by the Taliban after being captured in Afghanistan.
His release has lead to sharp criticism from some US politicians who fear it poses a threat to Americans abroad.
There is also a suggestion that Sgt Bergdahl may be disciplined after claims from members of his unit that he was captured in 2009 after abandoning his post.
The 28-year-old is now in a military hospital in Germany, undergoing physical and mental assessments.