Swiss Hostages in Pakistan Now Free

Posted March 15th, 2012 at 9:10 am (UTC-5)
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A Swiss couple is now free after being held captive by Pakistani Taliban militants for more than eight months.

Swiss tourists Olivier David Och and Daniela Widmer appeared smiling and looking healthy before television cameras Thursday at a military airbase near the Pakistani capital Islamabad. It is the first time the two have been seen in public since being kidnapped last July in the southwestern province of Baluchistan.

Pakistani army spokesman Major General Athar Abbas says the hostages told intelligence agents they had escaped. Officials say the couple appeared near a military checkpoint in North Waziristan, the tribal region where they had been held captive.

The Associated Press reports that Taliban commanders claim a ransom was paid in exchange for the couple's release. The Taliban claim has not been confirmed.

Kidnapping is a major source of income for militants and criminal gangs, especially in southwestern Pakistan.

The Swiss embassy has declined to comment on the couple's kidnapping or release.

Gunmen abducted the tourists as they were traveling by car through restive Baluchistan province. The Pakistani Taliban later claimed responsibility, demanding a Pakistani scientist jailed in the United States be released in exchange for the couple.