Father of captured U.S. soldier asks for son's freedom

SALMON, Idaho Sat May 7, 2011 12:00am EDT

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SALMON, Idaho (Reuters) - The father of a U.S. soldier who was captured in Afghanistan two years ago on Friday posted an online appeal asking the government of Pakistan and its armed forces to help free his son.

"Our family is counting on your professional integrity and honor to secure the safe return of our son and we thank you," Robert Bergdahl says about his son, Idaho National Guard Private Bowe Bergdahl, in a video posted on YouTube.

Bowe Bergdahl, of Hailey, Idaho, was a member of the 1st Battalion of the 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment in Afghanistan when he went missing June 30, 2009, and was declared captured by the Taliban three days later by the U.S. military. The Army specialist was 23 at the time.

The branch of the Taliban suspected to be holding Bowe Bergdahl operates on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border and may be based in tribal lands in Pakistan, according to 2009 statements by the U.S. Department of Defense.

In the video clip, Robert Bergdahl addressed the Pakistani military and appeals to two generals by name. He offered condolences and thanks to "the families of those who have fallen for Pakistan" and additional thanks to "those who have cared for our son for almost two years."

He said, "No family in the United States understands the detainee issue like ours. Our son's safe return will only heighten public awareness of this. That said, our son is being exploited."

Col. Tim Marsano of the Idaho National Guard, who has acted as the Bergdahl family's spokesman in past, confirmed the authenticity of the video on Friday.

Robert Bergdahl said in the video, "We ask for your nation's diligent help to free our son from his captivity. I pray this video be shown to our only son."

Later, apparently addressing his son, Robert Bergdahl said, "We have been quiet in public, but we have not been quiet behind the scenes. Continue to be patient and kind to those around you."

Bowe Bergdahl's captors have released several videos of the native Idaho man, including one in 2009 in which he is dressed in traditional Afghan dress while being prompted in English by his captors to call for U.S. forces to be withdrawn from Afghanistan.

(Editing by Steve Gorman and Peter Bohan)

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