Tal­iban frees Cana­dian af­ter five years

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - CANADA - THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

A Cana­dian man cap­tured by the Tal­iban in 2010 has been freed.

Colin Ruther­ford was on a pri­vate va­ca­tion in Afghanistan when he was seized by the mil­i­tant group in Novem­ber of that year.

The last in­di­ca­tion the Toronto man’s fam­ily had that he was alive came in a 2011 video re­leased by in­sur­gents where he an­swered ques­tions; an ac­com­pa­ny­ing email ac­cused Ruther­ford, then 26, of be­ing a spy.

In the video, Ruther­ford in­sisted he was not a spy and had trav­elled to Afghanistan to study his­tor­i­cal sites, old build­ings and shrines.

For­eign Affairs Min­is­ter Stephane Dion an­nounced Ruther­ford’s re­lease in a brief state­ment, but did not ex­plain what steps were taken to se­cure his free­dom — only that it in­volved the govern­ment of Qatar.

He says he was “very pleased that ef­forts’’ un­der­taken to get him out proved suc­cess­ful.

“We look for­ward to Mr. Ruther­ford be­ing able to re­turn to Canada and re­unite with his fam­ily and loved ones,’’ Dion said.

“As min­is­ter of for­eign affairs, I ex­tend my heart­felt thanks to the govern­ment of Qatar for its as­sis­tance in this mat­ter.’’

Ruther­ford was work­ing as an au­di­tor with the Cana­dian Cir­cu­la­tions Au­dit Board in Toronto when he went on va­ca­tion to Afghanistan in 2010.

“This is great news,’’ said Tim Peel, the com­pany’s vice-pres­i­dent said in an email.

“We wish him a safe and speedy re­turn and would like to thank all the par­ties in­volved in se­cur­ing his free­dom.’’

Peel did not re­spond to ques­tions about whether Ruther­ford’s job still ex­ists.

The in­volve­ment of Qatar in Ruther­ford’s re­lease is not en­tirely sur­pris­ing. The Per­sian Gulf coun­try has at times qui­etly played me­di­a­tor be­tween western gov­ern­ments and the Tal­iban — even help­ing to fa­cil­i­tate peace ne­go­ti­a­tions be­tween gov­ern­ments in Kabul and the hard­line in­sur­gency.

The Tal­iban have openly main­tained a political of­fice in the cap­i­tal of Doha since 2013.

Whether any ran­som was paid is an im­por­tant ques­tion.

In se­cur­ing the re­lease of Cana­dian di­plo­mats Bob Fowler and Louis Guay from the clutches of al-Qaida’s North African branch in 2009, the pre­vi­ous Con­ser­va­tive govern­ment de­nied mak­ing any pay­ment.

But an al-Qaida let­ter to the orig­i­nal kid­nap­pers, ob­tained by The As­so­ci­ated Press in north­ern Mali in 2013, said it re­ceived $1 mil­lion for the pair.

CP PHOTO

A still im­age from a video re­leased by the Tal­iban shows Cana­dian Colin Ruther­ford in cap­tiv­ity. Ruther­ford, cap­tured by the Tal­iban five years ago, has been freed by mil­i­tants.

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