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Swiss hostages are free


The couple from canton Bern were taken hostage by the Taliban in July 2011 (Keystone)

The couple from canton Bern were taken hostage by the Taliban in July 2011

(Keystone)

A Swiss couple held captive by the Taliban in Pakistan since July 2011 have been freed.

The pair from canton Bern were filmed by local television smiling and waving as they alighted from a military helicopter at Rawalpindi military base near Islamabad, where they had been transported by Pakistani authorities.

In a statement on Thursday, the Swiss government said embassy officials in Islamabad were in direct contact with the couple, who were in good health.

Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter told a press conference he was relieved the couple had been released and thanked Pakistani authorities for their assistance in the matter.

No ransom

Details about the release of the pair remain sketchy. Burkhalter insisted that Switzerland had not paid a ransom to secure their release.

Pakistani military officials initially said the couple had been freed by the Taliban, but an army spokesman later revised this to say that the couple had escaped of their own accord. 

General Athar Abbas said the pair turned up at a military post in the North Waziristan region and were taken by army helicopter on Thursday to the northwestern city of Peshawar.

Pakistan's Taliban claimed responsibility for kidnapping the two Swiss, who were seized from the Loralai district of southwestern Baluchistan province on July 1. The two Swiss, in their late twenties and early thirties, had been travelling in the remote region.

The Islamabad-based Fata Research Centre, which is active in the tribal zones where the Swiss couple were taken hostage, reported that a ransom of $3-4 million (SFr2.8–3.7 million) had been paid along with the release of 100 Taliban prisoners in order to secure the couple’s release.

Swiss abductions

Swiss tourists are seldom victims of abductions. At greater risk are business people, Swiss living abroad and staff of international organisations; most are eventually released.

December 2010:

A 50-year-old businessman is abducted in Cuernavaca in Mexico. Although a ransom of SFr10,000 is paid by his family, he has not reappeared. 

June 2010:

A 71-year-old businessman, who had been abducted in the south of the Philippines, is freed by soldiers.

April 2010:

Eight Red Cross workers, including one Swiss, are released after being held for a week in the Congo.

January 2010:

Police in Colombia free a 32-year-old Swiss woman who had been held for a fortnight. 

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