BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan – A U.S. Air Force officer who went missing for three days says someone stuffed an object in her jeans pocket with a note saying it was bomb and telling her to go to a site in Bishkek, where kidnappers grabbed her, Kyrgyz authorities said Saturday.
They said Maj. Jill Metzger reported feeling as if she were in a trance as she followed the instructions.
U.S. officials said the 33-year-old officer was in "stable condition" after she turned up Friday night and had been moved to another American base in the region.
Metzger disappeared Tuesday in Bishkek, capital of this former Soviet state in Central Asia, while shopping at the TsUM department store for souvenirs before a scheduled departure from the country on Friday.
Her disappearance touched off an extensive search by Kyrgyz police and by U.S. military personnel, including 22 special agents.
But no trace was found until late Friday when Metzger knocked on the door of a house in Kant, a town about 22 miles from Bishkek, and told its residents she had been abducted, Kyrgyz Deputy Interior Minister Omurbek Suvanaliyev said.
Military officials said Metzger was a newlywed and had been scheduled to travel with her husband to Jamaica for a belated 10-day honeymoon in the Caribbean.
Metzger told Kyrgyz police she had been abducted by three young men and a woman in a minibus and held in a rural area about 30 miles from the capital, Suvanaliyev told The Associated Press.
Kemilbek Kiyazov, chief of the Chuysk regional police department, said, "Her first testimony was that when she split up with her group in the department store, someone put a hard object and a note saying it was an explosive in a back pocket of her jeans.
"In the note there were also detailed instructions about where to go and what to do. Metzger says it was as if she were in a trance and fulfilling someone else's wishes."
Kiyazov said the major reported that she was met by three men and a woman who put her into a vehicle, took her to a house and placed her in a dark room. He quoted her as saying she managed to escape after an abductor brought her food and she struck him.
Kiyazov, who said he personally talked with Metzger, told AP that her blondish hair had been dyed dark brown and her hands were stained with dye. He said it would be necessary to question her again to get more details, "but Metzger said she really wanted to get a good sleep."
Capt. Anna Carpenter, a spokeswoman at the U.S. air base at Bishkek's Manas airport, where Metzger had been temporarily stationed, said the major was in "stable condition."
Metzger was taken several hours later to another base in the region, Carpenter said, but declined to say where. Manas is the only U.S. base in Kyrgyzstan.
The Pentagon declined to comment and referred questions and calls to U.S. Central Command in Qatar.
The U.S. Embassy said in a statement that "it now appears that Major Metzger had been abducted," but added she was safe and thanked Kyrgyz officials for their efforts.
"We are elated to have Jill back with us," a military statement quoted the base commander, Col. Scott Reese, as saying.
Metzger was serving a four-month stint with the 376th Air Expeditionary Wing at Manas, where the U.S. military has maintained a base since 2001 to support operations in nearby Afghanistan. She had been scheduled to return Friday to her regular post at Moody Air Force Base, Ga.
Metzger's father-in-law, Kelly Mayo, said the major's husband, Air Force Capt. Joshua Mayo, was overjoyed when he was told Friday that his wife had been found.
"I can't even describe it. He's just beside himself, just unbelievable joy," Mayo said.
Mayo's account of Metzger' recovery differed from Kyrgyz officials.
He told AP in Colorado Springs, Colo., that the Air Force's Office of Special Investigations had said Metzger was found on the side of the road with her head shaven. He also indicated she had been kidnapped and beaten.
"I know she's coherent, and whoever had her let her go," Mayo said. "We've got her back. Praise the Lord."
Metzger also phoned her parents in Henderson, N.C., early Saturday to let them know she was safe, The News & Observer newspaper of Raleigh reported in its Sunday editions. Her parents said the call left a number of questions about her disappearance, and they still did not know why she vanished, where she was during her ordeal or how she got back.
"She kept saying, "I'm fine, I'm OK, I'm OK," her mother, Jeanette Metzger, told the newspaper.
John Metzger, a retired Air Force colonel, said his daughter seemed to be in shock.
"Her tone of voice at the beginning was kind of distant, I would say, and then all of a sudden, I heard the old Jill come back," he said.