In the first publicly aired footage of Bergdahl's dramatic
handover to the U.S. military at the weekend, the clip shows Taliban
cadres dotted on nearby hills armed with rocket launchers watching
The operation, from the moment the helicopter touched the ground
amid a cloud of dust to take-off, was all over in a minute.
"Do not panic," the militants shout as the Blackhawk lands in the
barren valley deep in Khost province, close to the border with
Bergdahl, a U.S. army sergeant, was released on Saturday in exchange
for five senior insurgent leaders, who had been held in a U.S.
prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, since it opened in 2002.
Before his rescue, Bergdahl is seen sitting in the rear seat of a
4-wheel-drive truck, blinking rapidly, apparently either dazed by
the light or anxious about the events unfolding around him.
A plane and helicopters are seen circling overhead as fighters chant
"long live our mujahideen" and "long live the spiritual leader",
referring to the Taliban's reclusive Mullah Mohammad Omar.
As the Blackhawk lands, two of the militants approach the
helicopter, one carrying a white cloth crudely tied to a stick and
the other leading Bergdahl by the hand.
Three men walk from the American chopper. One is an interpreter, the
Taliban's reporter says in the clip.
TENSE 60 SECONDS
One of Bergdahl's escorts has his faced covered by a checkered scarf
and in the cloud of dust thrown up by the Blackhawk, the tension is
clear. Soldiers dressed in military fatigue stand by the helicopter
observing the handover.
One of the American team steps forward to shake their hands, keeping
as wide a distance as possible as though worried the militants might
blow themselves up.
He quickly offers his right hand to one, his left hand to the other
and simultaneously grabs Bergdahl by the arm. In the same movement,
he sweeps his hand across to Bergdahl's back.
"We told them: if he is not in good health, please tell us. We tried
to communicate with them through their interpreter, but they did not
wait," the Taliban reporter says in the clip.
As the first man leads the freed prisoner to the aircraft, the
interpreter waves and the second man steps backwards, his eyes still
trained on the Taliban.
A careful but rapid body search is performed before Bergdahl is
helped aboard the Blackhawk. Then, they take position with their
legs dangling and lift off.
[to top of second column]
The video starts plays a Taliban victory song and the message in
English flashes up: "Don' come back to Afghanistan". Then, it cuts
to the arrival of the five released leaders in Qatar after more than
a decade spent in Guantanamo Bay, where they are received with warm
The video's authenticity could not be independently
verified. The Pentagon said it had no reason to doubt its
authenticity, but was reviewing it. (Link to video,
"COME AGAIN, YOU WON'T LEAVE ALIVE"
Bergdahl was captured by the Taliban after leaving his base in
unclear circumstances and spent five years in captivity, learning
Pashto and taking an interest in Islamic books, according to the
The 28-year-old is now in a military hospital in Germany, undergoing
physical and mental assessments.
Bergdahl appears clean-shaven, in a traditional, white salwar kameez
as he squints at the Taliban militants outside leaning in to talk to
him. His head is also shaved.
They tell him: next time you come back to Afghanistan, you will not
Eighteen fighters, the Taliban's reporter explains, dot the hills
around the valley as agreed with the Americans, including some armed
The initial euphoria over Bergdahl's release has been clouded by
claims by fellow soldiers who say the U.S. sergeant deserted his
post in 2009 and too many lives were lost in the manhunt that
Some members of Congress also say the president broke the law by not
giving them advance notice of the swap.
(Writing by Jessica Donati; Editing by Jeremy Laurence)
[© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2014 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.