Canadian held by Taliban released in remote Afghan district

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — An Afghan official described on Tuesday the dramatic scene surrounding the release the previous day of a Canadian hostage held by the Taliban for five years — a scene that involved a helicopter landing to scoop the captive to freedom as fighter jets flew overhead in a remote district in Afghanistan.

The hostage, Colin Rutherford, was released at 11 a.m. on Monday in Ghazni province’s remote Giro district, local police chief Gen. Aminullah Amarkhil said.

Rutherford was seized in November 2010 and accused of being a spy. At the time, Rutherford said that he was a tourist.

The Canadian Embassy in Kabul did not divulge his current whereabouts and it wasn’t immediately clear if he had been flown out of Afghanistan. A Taliban statement said Rutherford’s release was brokered by Qatar.

Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion in a statement late Monday thanked the Qatari authorities for their help.

“Canada is very pleased that efforts undertaken to secure the release of Colin Rutherford from captivity have been successful,” Dion said. “We look forward to Mr. Rutherford being able to return to Canada and reunite with his family and loved ones.”

The Taliban released a video of Rutherford in 2011 and accused him of being a spy. Rutherford, who was then 26, insisted he was not a spy and had travelled to Afghanistan to study historical sites and shrines. He said in the video that he was an auditor from Canada and that he came to Afghanistan as a tourist.

Rutherford’s brother, Brian, called the release incredible news and said he was deeply grateful to all those who aided in the release. “We’re obviously overjoyed,” he said.

The Canadian Circulations Audit Board said in an email that Rutherford was working for them in Toronto when he went on vacation to Afghanistan.

“This is great news,” 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.”


Associated Press writer Rob Gillies contributed to this report from Toronto.