OTTAWA—An Afghan official has described a dramatic scene surrounding the release of a Canadian hostage held by the Taliban for five years.
Police chief Gen. Aminullah Amarkhil told The Associated Press today that Colin Rutherford’s release involved a helicopter landing to scoop him to freedom as fighter jets flew overhead in Ghazni province’s Giro district.
The Canadian Embassy in Kabul has not yet divulged Rutherford’s current whereabouts and it wasn’t immediately clear if he had been flown out of Afghanistan.
Foreign Affairs minister Stephane Dion announced Rutherford’s release yesterday in a brief statement.
But he did not explain what steps were taken to secure his freedom—only that it involved the government of Qatar.
Rutherford was on a private vacation in Afghanistan when he was seized by the militant group in November, 2010.
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 e-mail 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.
Dion said he was “very pleased that efforts” undertaken to Rutherford 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,” Tim Peel, the company’s vice-president, said in an e-mail.
“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.
Rutherford’s brother, Brian, called the release “incredible news.”
“We’re obviously overjoyed at the news today and we’re very thankful to everyone whose hard work has assisted in Colin’s safe release,” Brian Rutherford said in an e-mail to The Canadian Press.
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 openly have maintained a political office in the capital of Doha since 2013.
Whether any ransom was paid is an important question.