Saturday 7 December 2019

Taliban who kept me as hostage were 'lovely', says victim

Ordeal over: Timothy Weeks and Kevin King while they were kept hostage. Photo: Reuters
Ordeal over: Timothy Weeks and Kevin King while they were kept hostage. Photo: Reuters

Ben Farmer

An Australian lecturer held hostage by the Taliban said some of his guards were "lovely people" as he revealed US special forces had made six unsuccessful rescue bids.

Timothy Weeks spent more than three years locked up, often in the dark and underground, after he and colleague Kevin King were seized in Afghan capital Kabul.

In his first public appearance since he was freed in a prisoner swap, the 50-year-old said he believed US Navy SEAL teams had launched repeated rescue missions, sometimes missing their targets by just hours.

In one incident, he was bundled into a tunnel beneath his prison as fighting erupted above. His captors told him they were under attack from Isil, but he said he now believed it was a US raid.

"I believe they were right outside our door," he told a press conference.

"The moment that we got into the tunnels, we were one or two metres underground and there was a huge bang at the front door. And our guards went up and there was a lot of machine-gun fire. They pushed me over the top into the tunnels and I fell backwards and rolled and knocked myself unconscious."

Mr Weeks and Mr King were freed in return for three senior Taliban commanders last month. While he thanked US President Donald Trump and and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison for his release, he praised the compassion of some of his captors.

"I don't hate them at all," he said. "And some of them, I have great respect for, and great love for, almost. Some of them were so compassionate and such lovely, lovely people. And it really led me to think about... how did they end up like this?

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