An American engineer held hostage by Islamic militants in Afghanistan was freed in a daring nighttime raid by a Special Operations team last month, a rare move in a country where hostages often pay ransoms — or don't come home at all.
A team of about 30 special operators composed mostly of Navy SEALs flew into the mountains outside Kabul on October 14 to retrieve the 61-year-old American businessman, killing his captors and returning him to safety after nearly two months in captivity, according to an account in the Army Times.
"In my mind I'd given a military intervention a one out of a hundred chance," the unnamed engineer told the Army Times. The Taliban have kidnapped aid workers and journalists in recent years, and aggressive crime syndicates target wealthy Afghans and foreigners for ransom money.
"These fellows wanted either blood or money, and they weren't getting it that way," the engineer said.
The captive, who has lived and worked in Afghanistan for eight years, didn't have much to offer.
"This guy didn't have any money at all. It was like a personal life mission for him to help others," said Bruce J. Huffman, a spokesman for the Army Corps of Engineers in Afghanistan.
Militants from the Hezb-i-Islami (Party of Islam) kidnapped the man and an Afghan business partner August 20 on a road west of Kabul, according to the Army Times. He was treated "reasonably well" and was even allowed four cell phone calls to his wife, to whom he passed information in English, which the kidnappers did not understand.
The Afghan hostage was sold for a ransom. The American hostage told the Army Times he tried to escape, breaking free from his padlocks and running for cover in the nearest house, but was quickly spotted and caught by guards he said were 40 years his junior.
But when the kidnappers left him in one location for a stretch of days, the special ops group choppered in, climbing thousands of feet toward a mud hut where the engineer was being kept, while a select team approached and killed the militants before they could fire back.
The engineer was helicoptered back to safety that night and checked out by doctors at the U.S. embassy.
"I was in favor of that, 100 percent," he told the Army Times. "I was very surprised, very amazed and very happy."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.