Swiss couple escape from Pakistan Taliban captivity

MIRANSHAH, Pakistan Thu Mar 15, 2012 8:33am EDT

1 of 3. Swiss nationals Olivier David Och, 31, (L) and Daniela Widmer, 29, wave to the media at a military base in Rawalpindi, near Islamabad March 15, 2012. The Swiss couple kidnapped by the Pakistani Taliban last July say they escaped, a Pakistani army spokesman said, after the two showed up at a military checkpoint on a main road in the northwest of the country on Thursday.

Credit: Reuters/Faisal Mahmood

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MIRANSHAH, Pakistan (Reuters) - A Swiss couple kidnapped by the Pakistani Taliban last July say they escaped, a Pakistani army spokesman said, after the two showed up at a military checkpoint on a main road in the northwest of the country on Thursday.

Pakistani media identified the pair as Olivier David Och, 31, and Daniela Widmer, 29. They were kidnapped in Pakistan's southwestern province of Baluchistan and had been held by the Taliban in the North Waziristan region on the Afghan border.

"They escaped, this is what they have told us," Pakistan army spokesman Major-General Athar Abbas told Reuters. "They reported to our checkpost then. They are being questioned at the moment in Peshawar."

According to intelligence sources in North Waziristan, the two were found at a military checkpoint on a main road in Miranshah, the region's main town, at about 5:30 a.m. (0030 GMT) and were then sent to the city of Peshawar by helicopter.

A Swiss embassy official told Reuters that the embassy was not in a position to confirm or deny the reports.

Pakistan's Taliban had claimed responsibility for kidnapping the couple, who were seized in the Loralai district of Baluchistan province on July 1.

Kidnapping for ransom is relatively common in Pakistan, although foreigners are not often targets. Militants also occasionally take foreigners hostage.

Two Western aid workers were kidnapped by gunmen in the central Pakistani city of Multan on January 19. Another, a British doctor working with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), was kidnapped in the southwestern city of Quetta on January 5.

Warren Weinstein, an American aid worker, was kidnapped from the central Pakistani city of Lahore in August last year. Al Qaeda claimed responsibility for Weinstein's abduction in December.

(Additional reporting by Jibran Ahmad in PESHAWAR, Qasim Nauman in ISLAMABAD and Saud Mehsud in DERA ISMAIL KHAN; Writing by Mahawish Rezvi; Editing by Chris Allbritton and Sanjeev Miglani)

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